The Great Swamp Fight was a battle that took place during King Philip’s War in the 17th century. This was one of the key battles of the war and its outcome greatly impacted the war’s overall result.
At one side were the forces of English colonists. These comprised of both militiamen and Native Americans allied with the colonists, such as the Pequots and the Mohegans. The colonist forces numbered at around 1150 in total. On the other side were the Narragansetts who had established themselves inside a fortified position. They numbered at around 1,000 but they lacked the firearms that were used by the colonial forces.
In 1675, King Philip’s War started. This war was primarily started by the Wampanoag people under the leadership of Metacomet. The Narragansett people were allied with Metacomet and sided with him in fighting against the English colonies. So the colonists created a sizable militia and sent it to find the Narragansett stronghold and destroy it. The militia marched through the Narragansett territories, burning a number of villages. This forced most of the Narragansett people to take refuge in the stronghold.
The Narragansett stronghold was situated in the middle of the Great Swamp in Kingston, Rhode Island. However, the militia marched towards the stronghold in winters. At the time, the swamp was frozen, which made it easier for the militia to reach the stronghold quickly and easily. The stronghold was home to a large number of people, including families of the Indian warriors. Once the militia found the stronghold, preparations were made to assault it.
The Narragansett swamp covered a large area and was well fortified. However, colonial militiamen were armed with firearms which gave them a major advantage over their Indian enemies. They were also guided by allied Indian guides who showed them how to get close to the fortification. During the assault on the fortification, the colonists lost a number of their officers who were leading.
However, they were able to overrun the fortification with their superior numbers. The fortification housed some warriors but most of the people were non-combatants. In all, around 100 Narragansett warriors and more than 300 civilians died during the fighting. The fortification was burnt to the ground and all the stored crops were also torched.
The Great Swamp Fight was a devastating defeat for the Narragansett and a notable victory for the colonists. The surviving Narragansett people fled into the frozen swamp where many more died of their injuries and the cold. The battle nearly eliminated the strength of the Narragansett and weakened the Indian alliance that supported King Philip’s War. It also turned the war’s tide in favor of the colonists. Less than a year later, the colonists were able to track and locate Chief Metacomet, the main leader of the warring Indian tribes. Metacomet also hid in a refuge located within a swamp where he was found and executed.