About LandmarkEvents

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far LandmarkEvents has created 319 blog entries.

The Death of Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, 2003

2021-09-06T16:19:08-05:00September 6, 2021|HH 2021|

“Whatsoever the LORD please, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.” —Psalm 135:6

Hurricane Katrina, August 29, 2005

In the 20th Century, the impact of filmmaking became as important, or more important in recent years, than the printed word. The development of movie-making and the entertainment industry can rightly be termed revolutionary in guiding how people use their leisure hours, how they think, behave, and understand the past and present. Film has been used by governments to manipulate and guide the thoughts of their populations—it has proven one of the most effective propaganda tools of all time. Most of the Hollywoodization of the world has been developed by men, but not altogether. An elegant German female filmmaker in the 1920s and 30s could likely boast that she was the most influential female film director, photographer and actress in the 20th Century—Helene Bertha Amalie “Leni” Riefenstahl (1902-2003).

Helene Bertha Amalie “Leni” Riefenstahl (1902-2003)

Leni behind the camera in 1940

Born in Berlin to a successful businessman, Leni resisted her father’s plan for her to take over his business interests when she reached her majority. Leni “fell in love” with the arts and athletics at an early age and was encouraged and supported by her mother, who seems to have recognized her “motivated abilities” and desires for the entertainment world. At sixteen, Leni—already a proficient gymnast and swimmer—determined to learn dance, and her mother surreptitiously paid for lessons with a well-regarded studio in Berlin, where she became a star pupil.

In the heady days of avant-garde theatrics and improvisational entertainments following the disastrous First World War, Riefenstahl became a headline performer. Foot and knee injuries curbed her enthusiasm for dance and she began attending movie theatres, sparking a powerful interest in film. Upon meeting a famous actor and a director, Leni persuaded them to try her for a part in an upcoming film. Upon appearing in several films, she came to the attention of the cinema world outside Germany, and was invited to Hollywood, an invitation she rejected. As an actress, she studied the art of filmography and direction. One of her fan-boys was the up-and-coming leader of the National Socialist Party, Adolph Hitler, who claimed that Leni Riefenstahl was the perfect model of Aryan womanhood, and arranged to meet her.

Leni as a girl in 1914, with her brother Heinz (1905–1944)

Leni meeting Adolph Hitler, 1934

After performing in two joint German and American films, both of them successes, Hitler contacted Riefenstahl again with a directorial offer. Riefenstahl attended several National Socialist (Nazi) Party rallies and was mesmerized by Hitler’s powerful rhetorical style. Through Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, Riefenstahl received funding to make a one-hour film of the Nuremberg Rally of 1933, titled “The Victory of Faith” (Der Sieg des Glaubens).

Riefenstahl and her film crew in front of Hitler’s car during a parade in Nuremberg

Hitler liked the results and conceived a plan for a major picture based on the same rally, the following year. Riefenstahl and Hitler’s friendly relationship resulted in her most powerful work Triumph des Willens, “Triumph of the Will.” More than a million people attended the Nazi rally and Riefenstahl captured it all—the hundreds of red and black flags, the marching cadences, the music, the sharp uniforms, the adoring crowds, and, of course, the stem-winding nationalistic speech by the Fuhrer himself. Not a few historians consider the film the most successful and grandest propaganda film in history. It sold the Nazi brand to the world. It gave Riefenstahl international status reserved for the very few.

Riefenstahl behind the camera while filming Triumph of the Will

In 1935 she made a twenty-eight-minute film on the German Army, who believed she had short-changed them in Triumph of the Will. The propaganda value boosted their morale and helped bring in new recruits. Hitler invited Leni to film the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, where he hoped that his Aryan super-men and women would dominate the world in athletics. Her film Olympia became an international smash hit, and, although Germany won the most medals, the film included American sprinter and long-jumper Jesse Owen, winning four gold medals. Although the Olympic Committee commissioned Riefenstahl to make the film, it was secretly paid for by The Third Reich.

Riefenstahl receiving congratulations from Adolph Hitler at a showing of her film, Olympia, documenting the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games

Riefenstahl embarked on a grand publicity tour of the United States, and in an interview with the Detroit Free Press stated that “Hitler is the greatest man who ever lived.” She negotiated with Louis B. Mayer, the Hollywood impresario, was wined and dined by Henry Ford, an admirer of Hitler also, and given a tour of the studios by Walt Disney.

Riefenstahl in uniform and wearing a pistol, speaking with Nazi troops during their campaign in Poland, September 1939

Leni was on hand when the German army marched into Poland on September 1, 1939, dressed in a uniform and carrying a pistol. She witnessed the execution of Polish civilians and later claimed she was shocked, appalled and threatened when she tried to intervene. She filmed Hitler’s triumphal motorcade in Warsaw, the last Nazi film she ever made, though she tried to shoot other films during the war years but unrelated to politics.

Riefenstahl directing the filming of Olympia, 1936

In the immediate post-war era, Leni Riefenstahl was arrested and escaped a number of times from the Allies, and was finally tried in court for her cinematic pro-Nazi films, and released. She published several books of photographs taken in Africa in the 1970s, filmed the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, along with several film collections of entertainment celebrities. She died in 2003 at the age of 101, recognized for her innovative film techniques and for producing what became a cinematic historical record of great influence in its day.

Riefenstahl examining film reels for editing

Riefenstahl with a cameraman and assistant, pioneering new and unique filming techniques, such as track shots, that would become standards of cinematography

Hurricane Katrina, 2005

2021-09-06T15:45:24-05:00August 30, 2021|HH 2021|

“Whatsoever the LORD please, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.” —Psalm 135:6

Hurricane Katrina, August 29, 2005

God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind. He also referred to controlling the seas and all that is in them. Jesus himself commanded the weather and the seas as we find in the Gospels—He created them and controls His creation, to fulfill His purposes. In Scripture we also see God using “natural phenomena” like earthquakes, fire, lightning, rain, and tornadoes to bring judgement on people, to demonstrate His power, or to exercise His preserving Grace to His people. The Greeks invented several different gods to be in charge of those fearful occasions, which shows that man feels helpless before the power of God as Creator and sustainer of natural processes in history. And those providential events and phenomena have sometimes changed the course of history for a few people or many, from the Great Flood to the explosion of Mounts Vesuvius and Krakatoa to severe hurricanes or California wildfires. In modern times, in the United States, one of the most unforgettable and costliest forces of historic proportion came ashore along the Southern coast in 2005 and was named hurricane Katrina.

Map showing the track and varying strength of Hurricane Katrina

Radar animation of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on the Gulf Coast

Hurricanes form over oceans when warm ocean water and moist, humid air in the region flows upward at a zone of low pressure. The water is released from the air creating the clouds of the storm. As it rises, the air in a hurricane rotates at a speed of at least sixty-four knots (about seventy-four miles per hour) and sometimes more than one hundred fifty mph. Most hurricanes are spawned from winds moving west from Africa which then build up in the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricanes are not unknown in the Pacific Ocean, but the water there tends to be colder and thus less conducive to the conditions for hurricane creation.

An aerial view of the eye of Katrina, before landfall

Hurricane Katrina on August 28, the day before landfall

Katrina followed the typical process of hurricanes. It began as “tropical depression twelve” over the Bahamas on August 23, strengthened to Tropical Storm Katrina the following day, and made landfall over Florida as a hurricane on August 25. It entered the Gulf of Mexico and quickly picked up speed and power, doubling in size. It achieved Category 5 hurricane status with sustained winds of 175 mph after nine hours, and hurtled toward the southern coast of the United States. The eye reached landfall again on August 29 in Louisiana, just south of New Orleans, having been downgraded to Category 3. The effect of Katrina, however, had no downgrade in effects compared to previous storms.

New Orleans underwater following Hurricane Katrina, looking toward Lake Pontchartrain

Because of the sophisticated array of predictive technology operated by the federal and state governments, the predicted trajectory indicated possible devastating effects on southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The governor of Louisiana requested federal aid to evacuate fourteen parishes and the City of New Orleans. The National Hurricane Center began issuing warnings on August 27, upgrading the danger over the next two days. The mayor of New Orleans ordered the first ever full city evacuation at 10:00 A.M. August 27. It was too late.

New Orleans underwater following Hurricane Katrina, looking toward downtown

On August 29, the storm surge caused fifty-three breeches of flood protection structures like floodwalls, levees, sandbag revetments, etc. More than 80% of the City of New Orleans drowned under flood waters. Hundreds of thousands had gotten away safely, but at least 60,000—mostly among the urban poor who had no transportation—remained stranded in the city to face the brunt of the storm. About 1,200 of them died in Louisiana, a number of bodies never found. Total number of fatalities from the storm exceeded 1,800, which includes the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and places inland as the hurricane continued its path through those states and into Tennessee, Kentucky, and other areas. In material destruction, more than 125 billion dollars in damage and loss made Katrina the costliest storm in history. More than a million people were displaced, many settling later in Texas, Arkansas, and other states, never returning to the New Orleans area.

Evacuations taking place along the abandoned highway

Six Flags Over Louisiana in New Orleans, still underwater several weeks after Katrina

Many stories of heroic rescues and tragic failures were later recorded, along with all sorts of myths and rumors that attended the chaos and tragedy of the events. Recriminations and blame for the failure of the levees, the public transportation disaster, and inadequate law enforcement filled the media for months and years following the disaster. Some preachers claiming to know the mind of God declared with certitude the reasons for the tragedy, while many more Christians dropped everything in their lives to help the needy who suffered, praying for God’s mercy and compassion.

Downtown New Orleans, with the Superdome at the center. As a site for evacuees and those needing assistance, the notorious Superdome became a hotbed of chaos, crime and further disaster.

The providences of God’s secretive will are inscrutable, especially noteworthy in times of tragedy. What is not inscrutable, however, is God’s revealed will for believers to show compassion to the hungry and thirsty, bind the wounds of the injured, and sacrifice for those in need.

Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier Born, 1743

2021-09-01T13:46:04-05:00August 24, 2021|HH 2021|

“And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.” —Daniel 2:21

Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier Born, August 26, 1743

Great men and women of history come in all sizes and shapes, social classes, and countries. France has produced Charlemagne, Joan of Arc, Napoleon, and many others. However, you would be hard-pressed to exceed the brilliance or importance of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, one of the greatest chemists who ever lived, and whose work in the gunpowder industry, by an unusual providence, enabled the American colonists to fight a successful war of secession from Great Britain.

Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1743-1794) with his wife, Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze Lavoisier (1758-1836) who was a constant companion and invaluable aid to her husband

Lavoisier was born to a wealthy noble family of Paris on August 26, 1743. His father served as an attorney at the Parlement of Paris, and provided his son the best education available in the capital. Although he eventually earned a law degree, the introduction Antoine received to chemistry, botany, astronomy, mathematics and biology inspired a life-long love of those disciplines. Lavoisier proved a genius of the first water, as well as a humanitarian and patriot devoted to improving the lot of the urban population. He used his own, not inconsiderable fortune, developing practical ways to apply chemical and mathematical theories. King Louis XVI recognized Lavoisier’s unique value to France and awarded him a gold medal and appointed him to the French Academy of Sciences.

A museum recreation of Lavoisier’s laboratory

In the course of his life, Lavoisier revolutionized chemistry through experimentation and invention. Among other accomplishments he discovered that combustion and respiration are caused by chemical reactions with what he called “oxygen.” He theorized about the existence of atoms, based on his discovery of the law of conservation of mass. Along with Robert Boyle and John Dalton, he contributed to the creation of the atomic chart or “periodic table.” His work to improve public health included proposals for water purification and better hygiene for prisoners, although his suggestions were often ignored.

A diorama showing Lavoisier in his laboratory, conducting experiments in respiration. His wife can be seen seated at the table in the background, taking notes and sketches for him as she often did.

Twenty-year-old Louis XVI, in coming to the French throne in 1774, discovered to his dismay that gunpowder production, that mainstay of national survival, “was dangerously precarious.” The hopelessly archaic method of relying on a special guild of “salpetriers” only provided half of the amount needed for national defense and the rest was purchased from the Dutch, who charged sharp prices. The King appointed the nation’s most ingenious chemist, Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, to head the new Government Gunpowder Administration. Lavoisier developed new ways to improve saltpeter production (the main ingredient in gunpowder), installed proper management techniques, discarded outmoded procedures and improved record-keeping. Within a year, France had met its own needs and enough to sell to the Americans. They had gone to war with England with a miniscule supply of gunpowder and an industry that could produce but a fraction of the need to keep General Washington’s army in the field. Long before France committed troops to aid the Americans, they exported tons of gunpowder, which saved the army.

Louis XVI (1774-1792), King of France

Antoine Lavoisier (wearing goggles) with his solar furnace, conducting experiments in combustion

Lavoisier trained assistants in the manufacture of gunpowder, including Éleuthère du Pont, who immigrated to the United States in the early 19th Century. He established the DuPont powder mills along the Delaware River, and his sons and grandsons continued the business throughout that century, supplying the Union Army with most of the gunpowder in the American Civil War in the 1860s. He who notes providences, will have providences to note.

Lavoisier and his assistant, Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours (1771-1834)

Lavoisier established a bureau of weights and measures for France and introduced the metric system. With the coming of the French Revolution, France’s greatest scientist was stripped of all his honors, removed from the Gunpowder Administration and bureau of weights and measures. Having been born of a noble family he was automatically guilty of being an enemy of the people, for all revolutions murder the best and most productive members of society in their mad dash to destroy the past and start history over again. Lavoisier was arrested and dragged before a revolutionary tribunal. Trumped up charges were leveled against him and he, as well as many of the men he had trained, were beheaded at the guillotine. Ironically, the lawyers and judges who convicted him and carried out his execution were themselves sent to the “national razor” three months later, with the same results. Revolutions consume their own children.

Lavoisier explaining to his wife the result of his experiments on air

Lavoisier’s importance to science was expressed by mathematician and astronomer Joseph-Louis LaGrange: “It took them only an instant to cut off his head, and one hundred years might not suffice to reproduce his like.” A year and a half after his death, Lavoisier was completely exonerated by the new government. He is seen today as one of the most important scientists of history, and his timely appointment to reconstitute the gunpowder industry saved the fledgling United States.

Statue of Antoine Lavoisier, Paris City Hall

“Lawrence of Arabia” Born in Wales, 1888

2021-09-01T13:44:00-05:00August 17, 2021|HH 2021|

“Truly, truly I say to you, an hour is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live.”
—John 5:25, Inscribed on the grave of T. E. Lawrence

“Lawrence of Arabia” Born in Wales,
August 16, 1888

T.E. Lawrence, a second son, was born in Tremadog, Canarvonshire, Wales, in a house named Gorphwysfa (now Snowdon Lodge), August 16, 1888. His parents never married, his father (Sir Thomas Chapman) having run off with the governess of his daughters, had five children with the governess, herself illegitimate, and adopted the surname Lawrence to call themselves. Such beginnings do not seem like a recipe for dangerous adventures, best-selling authorship, archaeological brilliance, national hero status and world renown. Thomas E. Lawrence refused to be confined by his environmental circumstances and social handicaps.

Gorphwysfa in Tremadog, Canarvonshire, Wales, birthplace of T.E. Lawrence

Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888-1935) was a British archaeologist, army officer, diplomat, and writer, better known as “Lawrence of Arabia”

Thomas—nicknamed Ned, he preferred just his initials T.E.—spent his teenage years in Oxford, where his father finally settled his second family, after living in Wales, Scotland, Brittany, and Jersey. His father inherited the baronetcy of Chapman in Ireland, never having divorced or married beneath his station. Ned spent his youth exploring castles and old churches, collecting artifacts, and reading history books. He “read history” at Jesus College at Oxford, and in 1908, bicycled 2,200 miles through France, becoming so fluent in that language that people thought he was a Frenchman. He clambered over and studied castles wherever he went. The following year he walked more than a thousand miles through Ottoman Syria studying Crusader castles, a fascination with military architecture which never left him.

The second quadrangle of Jesus College, Oxford, where Lawrence studied history

David George (D.G.) Hogarth (1862-1927) of the British Museum took a special interest in Lawrence. Pictured here are (L-R) Lawrence, Hogarth, and Guy Payan Dawnay at the Arab Bureau of Britain’s Foreign Office, Cairo, May 1918

So impressed with Lawrence was D.G. Hogarth of the British Museum, that he awarded the budding archaeologist with a stipend to study Middle Eastern archaeological digs and travel far and wide with the greatest scholars of that discipline. He learned to speak Arabic and was given access to unexplored regions, strategic towns, and important military outposts that the British government would find useful in the coming World War.

T.E. Lawrence (L) and Leonard Woolley (R) in Carchemish (on the frontier between Turkey and Syria), with an Early Hittite artifact found during their archaeological research

Both cultures, for the most part, kept to the terms of the treaties, fulfilling the requirements of justice for criminal behavior by Englishmen or Wampanoag. Also during the treaty years, many more colonists arrived, increasing the number of Englishmen not members of the church, or loose and unattached on the frontier, or just looking for “the main chance” to prosper at the native’s expense, especially in land acquisition. Puritans, but not Separatists, founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north of Plymouth, which exceeded the population and geography of Plymouth within a short period of time. By 1675, one hundred years before the War for American Independence, the English population of New England exceeded 65,000, in 110 towns, with added colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island, while the major native tribes like the Massachusetts, Nipmucs, Narragansetts, and Wampanoags could probably count about 10,000. They all spoke Algonquian dialects.

Indian assault on Ayres’ Inn as part of King Philip’s War, August 4, 1675

After hostilities began, the British “Arab Bureau of Middle East Intelligence” recruited T.E. and made him a Lieutenant to draw maps, help with strategic planning, interrogate Turkish prisoners, and eventually to serve as a liaison between Arab tribal chiefs and the British high command in Cairo. He provided money and guns to the followers of Prince Faisal and joined his Arab revolt against the Turks. Lawrence helped plan and lead hit-and-run attacks and raids behind enemy lines, keeping the Damascus to Medina Railway inoperable. To the admiring Bedouins he became “Amir Dynamite.” His guerilla forces captured Aqaba, a major point along the Gulf of Aqaba, just off the Red Sea. British officials promoted Lawrence to Lt. Colonel. He continued to lead Arab forces in conjunction with the offensive by General Allenby to capture Jerusalem, and his amazing exploits were written up and promoted by an American war correspondent named Lowell Thomas. Soon the whole world was talking about “Lawrence of Arabia.”

Lawrence riding a camel at Aqaba, 1917

Lowell Jackson Thomas (1892-1981), an accredited war correspondent—as photographed during his time in Arabia—was influential in publicizing the life and exploits of Lawrence

T.E. Lawrence received numerous wounds, none fatal, leading the Bedouin to believe he could not be killed. He adopted native dress and customs, assured that when Damascus was taken, the combined Arab forces would be able to build their own state apart from the Ottoman Turks. Unknown to Lawrence, the French and British diplomats had already carved up the Middle East, with a wholly different role than the divided and quarreling Arab tribes had been promised. Imperial politics always took precedent over temporary military alliances, especially among desert tribal people with little experience in international diplomacy. He showed up at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 in Arab robes, but was given no notice nor credence as France and Britain carved up the Middle East, with little reference to tribal differences or geographical boundaries. Colonel Lawrence, in 1920, became an advisor and friend of Winston Churchill for a year and made numerous trips to the Middle East, hoping Churchill’s vision would be the one that prevailed.

The delegation of Prince Faisal of Syria to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference: (L-R) Rustum Haidar, Nuri as-Said, Prince Faisal (front), Captain Pisani (rear), T. E. Lawrence, Faisal’s slave (name unknown), Captain Hassan Khadri

Sick of government and bureaucracy, Lawrence enlisted as a private in the RAF as a mechanic in 1922, under a false name. That same year he completed his memoirs of the war, entitled The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Britannica describes his best-selling autobiography as an action-packed narrative of Lawrence’s campaigns in the desert with the Arabs. The book is replete with incident and spectacle, filled with rich character portrayals and a tense introspection that bares the author’s own complex mental and spiritual transformation. Though admittedly inexact and subjective, it combines the scope of heroic epic with the closeness of autobiography. His story came to the silver screen in 1962 with Lawrence of Arabia starring Peter O’Toole and an all-star British cast. It was nominated for ten Oscars and won seven, and is widely considered “one of the greatest and most influential films ever made.” He continued writing the rest of his life, becoming a friend of some of the greatest and most gifted authors of the century.

Theatrical release poster for the monumental 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, chronicling the life and adventures of T.E. Lawrence

Lawrence on his Brough Superior motorcycle in 1925 or 1926

T.E. Lawrence spent much of his time in the interwar period working on developing air-sea rescue craft for the RAF and racing Brough Superior motorcycles. He died in a motorcycle accident in 1935 at the age of forty-six, and is buried in a churchyard in Moreton, England, where he lived. Two of his brothers had been killed in the trenches of WWI in France, leaving one brother and his mother to mourn his loss. His reputation, however, knew no geographical boundaries. His funeral was attended by Winston Churchill, Lady Astor and the writer E.M. Forester, a friend and inspiration. The movie, twenty-seven years later, made him once again an international sensation.

The final resting place of T.E. Lawrence at St Nicholas’ Church, Moreton, Dorset, England

Chief Metacom Killed, 1676

2021-09-01T13:41:59-05:00August 11, 2021|HH 2021|

“Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.”
—Exodus 20:2

Chief Metacom Killed,
August 12, 1676

In recent mythologizing of the American past, some historians have succumbed to various strains of leftist propaganda and ideological rhetoric regarding the Pilgrims and their relationship with the native tribes they encountered in New England. Particularly odious has been the attempt to attribute to the settlers of 1620 motives of theft of property, hatred and genocide. Such ridiculous invention flies in the face of reality and careful research in the records of those days, and the years that followed. While there had been some contention and warfare between the Puritans and allied tribes against the Pequots, more than fifty years passed from the initial treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags before a major war occurred that spelled the end of peaceful relations with most native tribes. That war engulfed all of New England, killing more people in relation to the population than any other war in American history. The chief instigator was Chief Metacom, popularly known by the Englishmen as “King Philip.”

Chief Metacom, also known as King Philip (1638-1676), son of Massasoit and chief of the Wampanoag people after the deaths of his father and older brother

Chief Massasoit with some of his warriors and the Pilgrims, with whom his people enjoyed a long and peaceful relationship, until his son, King Philip, instigated war

Metacom (of Pokanoket) was the second son of the chief Sachem of the Wampanoag tribe, Massasoit, who brokered the treaty with the Plymouth colonists (Pilgrims) in 1621. Metacom and his brother both officially adopted English names, Alexander and Philip, after reaching adulthood, a not uncommon practice among the natives. Also during the fifty years of peace, numerous native tribesmen came to faith in Christ through the efforts of missionaries who learned the languages, taught the Bible, and established churches and “praying villages.” The Plymouth Colony expanded through land purchases from the natives.

The Old Indian Meeting House in Mashpee, MA was built in 1684 and used by early Wampanoag Christians

King Philip at a treaty table with settlers

  Celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Nov 15-20! Venues include the Mashpee Meeting House, Praying Indian Village sites, Plimoth Plantation, Cape Cod, Duxbury & much more! Learn More >  

Both cultures, for the most part, kept to the terms of the treaties, fulfilling the requirements of justice for criminal behavior by Englishmen or Wampanoag. Also during the treaty years, many more colonists arrived, increasing the number of Englishmen not members of the church, or loose and unattached on the frontier, or just looking for “the main chance” to prosper at the native’s expense, especially in land acquisition. Puritans, but not Separatists, founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north of Plymouth, which exceeded the population and geography of Plymouth within a short period of time. By 1675, one hundred years before the War for American Independence, the English population of New England exceeded 65,000, in 110 towns, with added colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island, while the major native tribes like the Massachusetts, Nipmucs, Narragansetts, and Wampanoags could probably count about 10,000. They all spoke Algonquian dialects.

Indian assault on Ayres’ Inn as part of King Philip’s War, August 4, 1675

In 1662, Metacom, known as King Philip, acceded to the throne of the Wampanoag confederacy as chief Sachem. He distrusted the Englishmen and harbored animosity toward the “praying Indians” as having abandoned their own culture and accepted European ways. In January of 1675, an Indian Christian named Sassamon, who served as intermediary between the governor of Plymouth and the Wampanoag leaders, reported that Philip was plotting an attack on the colony. The English leaders warned the sachem that should such reports be true, the Wampanoags could face further loss of land and weapons. Someone murdered Sassamon and threw him in a pond. Three Wampanoags were accused, tried and hanged by the Plymouth court. Infuriated, King Philip’s warriors attacked and wiped out the militia of Swansea. A retaliatory raid was made on the Wampanoag settlement at Mount Hope, which was found abandoned, but was burned.

Assawompset Pond—King Philip’s War began with the discovery of John Sassamon’s body and the subsequent trial of his suspected murderers. His body was slipped under the ice on Assawompset Pond and found the following spring. The outcome of the trial sparked the beginning of hostilities.

An Indian attack on local settlers would spare no one: man, woman or child

The Nipmucs joined with the Wampanoags and the war on the Plymouth, Connecticut, and Massachusetts frontiers blazed with extreme violence against men, women and children. The settlements of Middleborough, Dartmouth, Brookfield, Lancaster, Deerfield, Hadley, Springfield (CT), and Northfield were attacked, with great loss of life. Although not officially at war with the Narragansetts, the tribe had aided and abetted King Philip’s forces. A thousand New England troops made a preemptive strike against their main fort in Rhode Island, killing about 600 Narragansetts. The Pequots and Mohegans were allied with the English and took part in what became known as “The Great Swamp Fight.”

The Battle of Bloody Brook took place when a band of men, transporting the harvest, were attacked by a body of Nipmuc, resulting in the loss of at least 57 settlers

The war lapped over into New York, when Philip took some of his warriors there, probably to refit and prepare for the spring campaign. He was attacked by the Mohawks who ambushed and routed the New England Native army. Although it was a severe blow to Philip, the raids and massacres continued against more than twenty English towns and villages in 1675-76. On March 12, they attacked Plymouth Plantation but were repelled. The war expanded throughout all the New England colonies until August 12, 1676, when a Christian Indian shot King Philip through the heart. The war had cost thousands of lives on both sides and made an indelible mark on the history of New England. During the war, natives of the praying towns were sent to Deer Island in Boston Harbor, suspected of disloyalty. Many died of disease and hunger throughout the war. Many native survivors of the war settled in northern New York. Wampanoag prisoners were enslaved, some shipped to the Caribbean islands, including Philip’s family. Historical markers related to the war dot the landscape today across New England, and many place names proudly display the name of Metacom and hearken back to his tragic attempt to drive out the English.

A stone marks the spot where King Philip fell

King Philip was shot and killed on August 12, 1676 by John Alderman, a Christian Indian, who was accompanied by Captain Benjamin Church (historic predecessor of the United States Army Rangers), and Captain Josiah Standish (son of Captain Myles Standish)

Go to Top