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Chapter IV

Of the Capture of 'the Minister's House The Enemy's Retreat The Death of Mrs. Williams Eunice is Treated Kindly by Her Indian Captor

ONE of the houses first to be carried in the assault was that of the Rev. John Williams. For what we know of the details of the affray and of the experiences of himself and family in their captivity, we are indebted to his own quaint relation of the facts in his "The Redeemed Captive." This old-time book was published soon after the reverend author's return from Canada, and so great was the interest in his narrative that six successive editions were called for.

He tells how he was awakened from his sleep by the violent endeavors of the enemy to break open doors and windows with axes and hatchets. No sooner was he out of bed than he saw that the foe had already effected an entrance, and he called to awaken the rest of the house hold and reached up to the bed-tester for his pistol. Immediately the enemy broke into the room, a dozen or twenty of them "with painted faces and hideous acclamations." The minister cocked his pistol and put it to the breast of the foremost Indian, but the weapon missed fire and he was seized, disarmed and bound. Then the savages "insulted over him awhile, holding up hatchets over his head and threatening to burn all he had." His two youngest children and his negro woman they killed and the others of the family they huddled into the bedroom and held as prisoners.

When the sun was an hour high the pillage and destruction were complete, thirty-eight of the English had been killed and 119 made prisoners. Now the invaders prepared to retreat. By right of capture the minister was the property of the three Indians who had seized and bound him, but one of these had since been killed. The other two now took him in charge and fell into the line of march. Little Eunice was the property of another savage, and no two of the family had for a master the same person. They were all separated. As they left their home they saw that nearly all their neighbors' buildings were in flames and the torch was at once applied to their own house and barn. It was a dreadful experience for all and for none more so than for the seven year-old Eunice Williams, dragged weeping along by her Indian captor.

As soon as they saw the enemy in re treat the English who had escaped, with such others as had meanwhile come from Hatfield, started in pursuit. A sharp skirmish ensued, in which the assailants lost nine men and were in imminent danger of being all captured. During the fight there was one crisis, when the French commander was so hard pushed that he sent orders to have all the captives tomahawked, but the Indian messenger was fortunately killed before he delivered his orders, and the retreat of the English so soon followed, that the order was not repeated.

Now the three hundred mile march to Canada began in earnest. They crossed the meadow and the river north of the town, and then, at the foot of the mountain, the Indians took away their prisoners' shoes and gave them moccasins to enable them to travel more swiftly.

They made little progress that day, and night overtook them in Greenfield meadows, where they dug away the snow and made some rude wigwams of brush and cut spruce branches for beds. To prevent escapes, Mr. Williams and the other men prisoners were bound, and this continued the practice every night of the journey. During the evening some of the Indians got drunk on the liquors they had brought away from Deerfield and in their orgies they at tacked Mr. Williams' negro man and killed him.

Early the next day, when the march was resumed, they found that Green river, near their camping place, barred their way with open water. The stream was swift and the water above knee deep, but the order was given to wade it. Mrs. Williams, who was weak from a recent sickness, stumbled in the midst of the stream and was plunged entirely under water. After that, the shock and the chill made it impossible for her to keep up with the march, and her Indian captor lifted his hatchet and with one blow relieved himself of her.

A little later her body was found by friends who followed that far the line of the enemy's retreat and they carried the body back to Deerfield and there buried it. The stone that marks her resting-place can be seen to-day in the old burying-ground. If you have patience you can decipher the mossy inscription which reads:

Here lyeth the body of
the vertuous & desirable consort of the Rev'rd.
Mr. John Williams, & daughter to ye
Rev'rd. Mr. Eleazer & Mrs. Esther
Mather of Northampton.
She was born Augt. 2, 1664, and fell by rage of
ye barbarous Enemy March I, 1704.
Prov. 31.28. Her children rise up and call her Blessed.

This incident of Mrs. Williams' death was typical of the prisoners' treatment.

It was the same all through the march any who became burdensome, sick women, wounded men, or infants in arms, met a quick death and were left to the burial of the sifting winter snows. In the case of the children able to walk some tenderness was shown. The Mohawk who was Eunice's master carried her dryshod across the cold waters of Green river, though when he picked her up she struggled with fear and kicked him fiercely.

Many times afterward when the little girl became too tired to keep up with the rest in the tramp through the drifts, the Indian carried her on his back. She saw other children carried in like manner by their captors, but, it is quite likely, they were moved less by sympathy than by hope of gain. For the children were theirs, and when they reached Canada they could either dispose of them or retain them for their own service.

On the fourth day the army reached the Connecticut river in the vicinity of Brattleboro, and thence northward to White river they traveled on the ice. At the mouth of White river the force was divided and made its way to Canada by several different routes. They had largely to secure their provisions on the march and there were times when they suffered severely from hunger.

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