A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Book - 2006
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From the perilous ocean crossing to the shared bounty of the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrim settlement of New England has become enshrined as our most sacred national myth. Yet, as bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick reveals in his spellbinding new book, the true story of the Pilgrims is much more than the well-known tale of piety and sacrifice; it is a fifty-five-year epic that is at once tragic, heroic, exhilarating, and profound.

The Mayflower's religious refugees arrived in Plymouth Harbor during a period of crisis for Native Americans as disease spread by European fishermen devastated their populations. Initially the two groups--the Wampanoags, under the charismatic and calculating chief Massasoit, and the Pilgrims, whose pugnacious military officer Miles Standish was barely five feet tall--maintained a fragile working relationship. But within decades, New England would erupt into King Philip's War, a savagely bloody conflict that nearly wiped out English colonists and natives alike and forever altered the face of the fledgling colonies and the country that would grow from them.

With towering figures like William Bradford and the distinctly American hero Benjamin Church at the center of his narrative, Philbrick has fashioned a fresh and compelling portrait of the dawn of American history--a history dominated right from the start by issues of race, violence, and religion.

Publisher: New York : 2006
ISBN: 9780670037605
Branch Call Number: ANF 973.22 PHIL
Characteristics: 461 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm


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Dec 16, 2017

Philbrick is a masterful writer, and does his research. He traces the Pilgrims from their formation in England, where they were known as Separatists, who illegally left England for Holland, a religiously tolerant country where they could worship as they wished. That was appreciated, but their children were growing up Dutch, so they began to look across the Atlantic. They got a patent from the English King to found a colony at the mouth of the Hudson River. Enough wanted to leave to need two ships, but the captain of the Speedwell was a plant from a group who wanted a Dutch colony on the Hudson. He used the Pilgrims' naivete about marine matters to spring constant leaks that meant they had to ultimately abandon it, overcrowd into the Mayflower, and use up too many of their provisions before even leaving. Because of storms, they landed far north of their original destination, in one of the hardest Novembers in years. Many died that first winter, and more would have without Native help. Plymouth was empty of people because a recent plague had decimated its Native population. It also happened not to have good soil. The community's ability to pull together to make life work in cooperation with local tribes fell apart within 50 years, leading to King Phillip's War in the 1670s. He says this war had far reaching consequences for White/Native relationships up to the present. The weakest part is that he doesn't really follow through on explaining this, though much of it is implicit. Still, an excellent, exciting corrective to what many of us were taught in grade school.

Aug 21, 2016

Sorry to say I was very disappointed & never finished/

Apr 22, 2016

Phibrick brings extensive historical research to reveal a real world experience of the period. His fair presentation of facts from all sides in the conflict lends new insights and interpretations of the old staid history taught to generations of school children. A considerable portion of the book covers the events of King Phillips War, again revealing a part of New England history and the significance to the formative years of our nation often overlooked. I found the book provided a wonderful insight to the life of the period, and an exciting, dramatic story.

Mar 12, 2016

In addition to covering the Pilgrims’ history in England and Holland as well as the establishment of Plymouth Colony, Philbrick spends the latter portion of the book covering King Philip’s War (or Metacom’s War) in 1675-1676. Philbrick’s greatest appeal lies in presenting facts from all sides of an event before drawing any conclusions. Thus while puncturing much of the mythology surrounding the Pilgrims, a complex image emerges that may diminish the legend but still provides insights on actions that were taken.

The comparative peace that existed between the Pilgrims and the Indians during the first years stands in sharp contrast to the tension that arose as more settlers arrived. Philbrick’s telling of King Philip’s War, one of the deadliest wars (proportionately) in American history, provides a sad historical chapter. The war may have been possibly inevitable given the nature of the participants. Succeeding generations of the Pilgrims and additional settlers were much less considerate of the Indians’ rights and claims. But Massasoit’s belligerent son Philip was a master at inciting violence while at the same time acting surprised that his actions provoked others to battle.

After reading Mayflower I found it easy to come to the same conclusion as historian Samuel Eliot Morison: “The ways of the puritans are not my ways, and their faith is not my faith; nevertheless they appear to me a courageous, humane, brave, and significant people.” Neither vilifying the participants using present-day standards nor whitewashing their actions, Philbrick has provided an account of the Pilgrims that was a pleasure to read.

Mar 19, 2015

Well written, detailed, some of the myths debunked, others substantiated! An enjoyable read.

laidlawcouple Jan 29, 2014

Fascinating account of a very little-known war - and one that, as the author promises, illuminates much of later American history

frosty73 Jul 17, 2011

I was interested in this book because one of my ancestors came over on the Mayflower. It is incredibly researched, but too much information made it boring. I couldn't finish it.

fluffarama21 Dec 01, 2010

This book will be discussed on Nov. 16, 2011 at the Frisbie Senior Center.

Dec 06, 2007

Finalist 2007 Pulitzer prize for history.

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