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A Tale of King Philip’s War

1667 – 1680

The Fifth James Family Novel
Sequel to Nor'easter

At a time when one’s beliefs could get them beheaded or burned at the stake, the Netherlands was a defender of toleration. A community of English separatists moved there in 1608 to escape persecution. But a serious problem soon became evident. Their children, surrounded by Dutch culture and language, were forsaking traditional English values and becoming Dutch themselves. So, the separatists fled a second time, not as immigrants seeking acceptance in a foreign country, but as conquerors imposing their culture on indigenous people who at first welcomed them as guests. In America, a man wasn’t killed because of his beliefs, only his actions.

     The bloody Pequot war shifted power from the unorganized tribes of the western frontier to the colonies in New England. Without the threat of reprisal from the savage Pequots, there was nothing to hinder colonial expansion. The Connecticut River Valley became the focus of growth for nearly twenty-five years. And for twenty-five years the New England tribes—especially the Wampanoags—sold off their land, little by little, piece by piece until they found themselves confined and their very lifestyle threatened.

     The eastern tribes didn’t understand the English concept of ownership, assuming that when the land was sold it could still be traversed, fished, and hunted. Their hostility at being excluded from the property they’d enjoyed for generations increased to where Massasoit’s elder son Wamsutta—renamed Alexander by the English court—began plotting war against the colonists. Upon hearing rumors of rebellion, Plymouth Governor Prence ordered Alexander to appear in court to explain his actions. The day of his appearance came and went, but not Alexander. He was in a powwow with the Narragansetts, trying to sway them to his cause.

     Ed Winslow’s son, Major Josiah Winslow, was dispatched to apprehend Alexander and bring him to court, by force if necessary. Alexander was enraged that the English would order his arrest based on hearsay, and Winslow was forced to draw his pistol. Although he entertained Alexander in his own home and showed him every kindness, Alexander couldn’t quell his anger. He was offered a horse on which to ride to court, but as his wife Weetamoe had to walk, he chose to walk with her. His rage was his undoing, for shortly thereafter he unexpectantly died, elevating his younger brother—twenty-four-year-old Philip—to Sachem of the Pokanoket and Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag. Philip was also suspected of plotting treachery against the English and summoned into court to explain himself, where his haughty mannerisms earned him the moniker “King.”

     In 1664, a celestial event created widespread speculation. A flaming comet appeared in the New England sky from September through early December. Some saw it as a sign of God’s approval of the colonist’s hard work, a mandate to build and prosper. Some saw it as just another astronomical phenomenon with no particular meaning at all. But others saw in it a bad omen, a harbinger of coming trouble. Ten years of continuous growth and prosperity passed and nothing dreadful happened, at least not to the colonists.

     Conspiracy rumors involving Philip became more frequent and Roger Williams of Rhode Island continued working with Pessicus and Ninigret, sachems of the Narragansetts and Niantics, to resolve them. In 1671, Williams even offered himself as a hostage to guarantee Philip’s return from his latest summons to the Bay Colony court. Philip appeared and renewed the covenant confirmed by his father and brother, but it was mere lip service. Ordered to disarm and surrender their weapons, he and his retinue complied to stall for time. Then Philip invited Indians from all over New England to join in a great powwow at Mount Hope. He insolently refused to re-appear in court to answer for this challenge to his agreement, shortly after which his former secretary and confidant, John Sassamon, was murdered. The comet’s portent of trouble was about to be fulfilled.

     Fans of the James family saga will get better acquainted with Captain Zeke of the Plymouth militia in this rousing tale of colonial expansion. While his parents, Alan and Aponi recede into the background, content to retire into rural farm life, Zeke accompanies his childhood friend Ben Church as he builds and leads America's first army ranger unit into battle against a wily and unconventional enemy. For everyone enthralled with the James/Stonefire saga, FireStorm takes the action up a notch. The final edit is nearing completion and publication is scheduled for late fall of 2020.