Baker & Taylor
Describes the 1704 French and Indian attack on Deerfield, Massachusetts, and the capture of Puritan minister John Williams and his five children
Blackwell North Amer
Early on the morning of February 29, 1704, before the settlers of Deerfield, Massachusetts, had stirred from their beds, a French and Indian war party opened fire, wielding hatchets and torches, on the lightly fortified town. What would otherwise have been a fairly commonplace episode of "Queen Anne's War" (as the War of the Spanish Succession was known in the colonies) achieved considerable notoriety in America and abroad. The reason: the Indians had managed to capture, among others, the eminent minister John Williams, his wife, Eunice Mather Williams, and their five children. This Puritan family par excellence, and more than a hundred of their good neighbors, were now at the mercy of "savages" - and the fact that these "savages" were French-speaking converts to Catholicism made the reversal of the rightful order of things no less shocking.
In The Unredeemed Captive, John Demos, Yale historian and winner of the Bancroft Prize for his book Entertaining Satan, tells the story of the minister's captured daughter Eunice, who was seven years old at the time of the Deerfield incident and was adopted by a Mohawk family living at a Jesuit mission-fort near Montreal. Two and a half years later, when Reverend Williams was released and returned to Boston amid much public rejoicing, Eunice remained behind - her Mohawk "master" unwilling to part with her. And so began a decades-long effort, alternately hopeful and demoralizing for her kin, to "redeem" her. Indeed, Eunice became a cause celebre across New England, the subject of edifying sermons, fervent prayers, and urgent envoys between the Massachusetts Bay Colony and New France. But somehow she always remained just out of reach - until eventually, her father's worst fears were confirmed: Eunice was not being held against her will. On the contrary, she had forgotten how to speak English, had married a young Mohawk man, and could not be prevailed upon to return to Deerfield.
Eunice's extraordinary and dramatic story speaks to broad, compelling themes that involve race, religion, the place of women in two societies, and, above all, contact between cultures ("Captivity, after all, meant 'contact' of a particularly vivid sort") and the crossing of cultural boundaries. For both colonists and Indians, the stakes were high in early-eighteenth-century America. Hence the boundaries were carefully patrolled: "To travel across them was costly and dangerous - and potentially transforming." The Unredeemed Captive traces just such a transformation - remarkable, profound, and uniquely American.
Describes the 1704 French and Indian attack on Deerfield, Massachusetts, and the capture of Puritan minister John Williams and his five children, one of whom remained with her captors despite numerous attempts to free her. 10,000 first printing. History Main. BOMC Alt.