The Grizzly Death of King Philip: Beheaded and Quartered, Body tied in Trees For the Birds To Pluck


On August of 1676, King Philip's luck had run out. Though he escaped capture by the skin of his teeth twice before in Hockomock Swamp, in Miery Swamp in Mount Hope, he had nowhere to hide. Philip was shot in the chest by John Alderman, "a praying Indian whose brother King Philip had ordered executed after a being deemed a traitor." Alderman was accompanied by Captain Benjamin Church himself, the most famous Indian hunter of the day. (It is interesting to note that in the scene depicted in the picture below of the death of King Philip, it is Church and not Alderman who is holding the gun.)


"The Death of King Philip," Harper's Magazine, 1883 
Church ordered Philip's body to pulled up to higher ground to begin the act of his mutilation. His body was beheaded and dismembered. Quartered, Church picked four nearby trees and ordered four pieces of Philip's body to be tied to them for the birds to pluck. His hand was given to Alderman as a trophy of the kill. Philip's hand was very unique. It had been disfigured when a pistol misfired years before. Alderman took the maimed hand happily and later would place it in a jar preserved with rum. Alderman would take the jar to taverns where he would allow the owners to display it in exchange for free drinks.

Philip's head was spiked and proudly carried through the streets of Plymouth before it would meet it's final resting place upon Plymouth Colony Fort, now Burial Hill Cemetery. It would soon be joined by the heads of Chief Anawan and Tispaquin. How long the other Wampanoag leader's heads remained displayed on the fort is unknown. But we know that Philip's head remained on the fort for at least 25 years. As if sight of Philip's skull was not horrific enough, one day the Puritan leader Cotton Mather removed the jawbone, to keep "the devil from speaking from the grave." Historian's estimate that King Philip was 38 at the time of his death.