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Metacom (c. 1638-1676) was the second son of Wampanoag chief Massasoit. His father coexisted peacefully with the Pilgrims and gave them crucial knowledge to survive their first harsh winters. He also maintained peaceful relations with the Rhode Island settlers. When Metacom took over in 1662, he reacted against the treatment of his people by settlers encroaching further onto Wampanoag lands. At Taunton in 1671, he was humiliated when whites forced him to sign a new peace agreement that included the surrender of Indian guns. Convinced that the whites were bent on total domination, he established a military alliance with other southern New England tribes.

When officials in Plymouth Colony hung three Wampanoags in 1675 on flimsy evidence for the murder of a converted or "praying" Indian, Metacom's alliance launched a united assault on colonial towns throughout the region. The resulting war, named for Metacom (or King Philip, as he was known to the colonists), was one of the bloodiest in American history, proportionate to the size of the population at the time. Metacom's forces enjoyed initial victories in the first year, but then the alliance began to unravel. By the end of the conflict, the Wampanoags and their Narragansett allies were almost completely destroyed. Metacom foresaw the defeat and returned to his ancestral home at Mt. Hope, but was then killed in battle, quartered and beheaded. The Puritans displayed his decapitated head on a pole at Plymouth for another 25 years.

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