Benjamin Church (military officer)

Benjamin Church (military officer)

Infobox Military Person
name=Capt. Benjamin Church

caption=Woodcut print of Captain Benjamin Church
died=January 17, 1718
placeofbirth=Plymouth Colony
placeofdeath=Little Compton, Rhode Island
allegiance=Plymouth Colony, USA
commands=Church's Rangers
battles=King Philip's War

Captain Benjamin Church (c. 1639-January 17, 1718) was an American carpenter, military officer, and Ranger during America's Colonial era, and specifically, King Philip's War.


Born in Plymouth Colony in about 1639, Church married Alice Southworth on December 26, 1667 in Duxbury, Massachusetts. He resided for a time in Duxbury and later moved to Bristol, Rhode Island.

Church was the principal aide to Governor Josiah Winslow of Plymouth Colony. He fought during King Philip's War (1675–1678) on the New England frontier against the Wampanoag, Nipmuck and Podunk tribes of Indians. He is best known for his actions during this time in commanding a company of men independent of the governor's direct command. Church's men were the first colonial force successful in raiding the Indians' camps in forests and swamps. During previous decades, colonists were on the defense against the Natives, although relations were generally peaceful until 1675.

Church was eventually allowed to recruit Indians when traditional Army tactics of the times were unsuccessful. He persuaded many neutral or formerly hostile Indians to surrender and join his unit, where they operated skillfully as irregular troops. Some of these men had converted to Christianity in settlements before the war. These men were known as Praying Indians. After being organized by Church, these troops tracked Indians into the forests and swamps and conducted effective raids and ambushes on their camps. The war soon ended after a company operation on August 12, 1676, when one of Church's Indian Rangers (John Alderman) killed Metacomet - the chieftain also known as King Philip. Upon inspection of Philip's body, Church is quoted as saying "a doleful, great, naked, dirty beast." Philip was then butchered in a manner standard with English punishment for treason, drawing and quartering.

Over the next 28 years, Church led five New England raiding parties into Maine and Canada against the French and Indians; he carried out devastating raids in Acadia. Church kept notes on his tactics and operations in 1675-1676 which were eventually published in 1716 as "Entertaining Passages relating to Philip's War".

He held public office as the first representative of Bristol at Plymouth between 1682 and 1684. Church died at Little Compton, Rhode Island, in 1718.


*Captain Church was the grandfather of Dr. Benjamin Church, the first "Surgeon General" (though that title came later) of the Continental Army.


* [ US Army Ranger Hall of Fame]
* [ Historical Biographies, Nova Scotia]
* [ Lepore, Jill, "Plymouth Rocked", "The New Yorker", April 24, 2006] Lepore doubts the veracity of Church's memoirs.
*Philbrick, Nathaniel, "Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War." New York: Viking Penguin, 2006. ISBN 0-670-03760-5

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