The story of the Pilgrims is a familiar one. Struggling for religious freedom, a small group of Puritans left their homes and traveled to the New World where they hoped to build a new life. Arriving in New England, they were saved from hunger and the cold of winter by friendly Native Americans. They celebrated by starting the tradition of Thanksgiving. Actually, that isn't quite the way it happened. First, less than half the passengers of the Mayflower were Puritans. And it wasn't really religious freedom they were struggling for but rather the ability to force everyone to follow their religion. Ultimately, the Pilgrims did make friends with the Native Americans but it was not an easy change for them to accept the "heathen" and not all tribes in the area were friendly.
But this book is not simply about those first few years in the New World. Just one generation after the arrival of the Pilgrims, just 100 years before Lexington and Concord, the bloodiest war in the history of North America was fought. King Philip's War saw the slaughter of 15% of the Native Americans in New England with many more sent off to the Caribbean into slavery. The Pilgrim population was also decimated (one in ten white men died) leaving the Pilgrims poorer and less able to defend themselves ultimately forcing them to ask for a Royal Governor to protect them.
This book is the story of how the children of the Pilgrims ignored the lessons learned by their parents and turned against the Native Americans who had saved the Pilgrims from starvation and how by doing so, they ultimately ruined themselves. Philbrick tells the story clearly and looks at events from the side of the settlers as well as the Native peoples. The narrative takes us through the period of peace, acceptance, and accommodation between the original Pilgrims and the Native Americans to a period where the Pilgrims looked upon the Native Americans as their inferiors. Native Americans sell their land to buy guns in order to make war. The children of the Pilgrims arrest and sell into slavery Native Americans on the slightest provocation or evidence. And both sides are drawn into the inevitable war that no one really wanted. Philbrick makes the story fascinating by bringing to life many of the characters on both sides. Whether it is 1620 when the Pilgrims are just landing or 1675 when the war breaks out, Philbrick makes the story highly readable by making the story about the lives of real people.
The book is not without flaws. The pictures are of mostly poor quality and unless you are familiar with the geography of New England it is difficult to follow the movement of the various peoples during the war. However, Philbrick does a nice job of showing how the events of the 17th century were critical in creating the United States that we know today. Overall, this was a very good book that is well worth being on your reading list.