November 1, 2014
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Key figure in King Philip War - Captain Ben Church, Indian fighter continued
Terry D'Amato

Philip still had 180 braves, and Church had but 22 braves and 18 white soldiers. The captain split his men up into pairs wherever possible, one white with one Indian. The English force burst into the enemy camp near Mount Hope. When Philip saw Church he fled into the swamp and right at Caleb Cooke and Alderman. Cooke fired first, but his powder was wet and the charge didn't go off. Alderman had no trouble, and put a bullet in the chief's heart. Philip, once the proud and respected leader of a nation, was dragged from the swamp and dumped at the feet of Captain Church. The warrior was beheaded and quartered. His head was sent to Plymouth where it remained on a spike for over 20 years.

Some of the warriors under an old sachem, Anawom, escaped, but Church soon tracked them down. Once again Church defied all odds in capturing Anawom. The wily old warrior had hidden in an area where only one or two people could get through a narrow opening. He was trapped but he would make it costly for anyone to capture him. Church surveyed the area and luckily caught a young brave courting a squaw outside the protected area, and he forced the embarrassed couple to reveal the password to the camp. Before Anawom realized it, Church and Cooke, using the signal, had entered the camp as the Indians were preparing supper. The Indians had piled their firearms in one place and Cooke blocked them from getting their weapons.

Church calmly asked Anawom if he would invite him for supper. Dumbfounded, the Indian watched as Church helped himself. Church, on his feet for 60 hours, left Cooke on guard and fell asleep. When he awoke he found Cooke and all the Indians, except Anawom, asleep. Without word the old man got up and walked behind a hill. When he returned he had King Philip's regalia, which he gave to the bold Englishman and formally surrendered. Church, very much moved by this, promised to spare Anawom's life and sent him to Plymouth. The authorities there were not so kind and beheaded the old warrior and put his head on a spike next to Philip's. Benjamin Church, by his bravery and understanding of his Indian adversaries, helped bring the end to 14 months of the bloodiest fighting this area had seen.

When the war was over Church tried the life of a farmer. He moved to Bristol, where he bought some of the land once owned by Philip, and became a popular citizen there. He was elected to office again and again by his neighbors. When King William's war broke out he was recalled into service and sent to Maine and Canada to fight the French and the Indians.

He continued in colonial service until he was 65 years of age. He was given little assistance in these expeditions and when he returned to Boston penniless and with his clothes in rags, the authorities refused to pay him. He had to beg and borrow enough money to get back to Bristol. He found that not only was he poorly rewarded in King Philip's War but that he had to sell much of his Bristol lands to pay for his expenses in this most recent war. Sadder but wiser, he returned to Little Compton, never to fight again. On February 17, 1718, the remarkable "reformadoe" now 79 years old and corpulent, was thrown from his horse and died.

This concludes the story of Captain Benjamin Church, Indian fighter in the King Philip War.


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