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by Jud Hartmann
 
 
 
 

"Deerfield" by Jud Hartmann

"On the 29th of February 1704, not long before the break of day, the enemy came in like a flood upon us; our watch being unfaithful . . . they came to my house in the beginning of the onset, and by their violent endeavors to break open doors and windows with their axes and hatchets, awakened me out of sleep; on which I leaped out of bed and running toward the door, perceived the enemy making entrance into the house . . . the enemy immediately brake into the room, I judge to the number of 20 with painted faces and hideous acclamations, I reached up my hands . . . for my pistol, uttering a short petition to God . . . expecting a present passage through the Valley of the Shadow of Death." - Rev. John Williams, "The Redeemed Captive", 1707.

Previously, the residents of Deerfield assumed themselves safe from attack, with 3-4 feet of snow separating them from the enemy, 300 miles to the north - "no fear of Indians 'til the leaves put forth in the spring," the old maxim said. However, in a strange manner, a few days before the attack, their vigilance was reawakened. Young Ruth Catlin awoke terrified from sleep to the sound of many muffled footsteps marching around the stockade. Waking her parents, but hearing nothing themselves, she was reassured that it was but a bad dream. Not until the next morning did they discover to their amazement that the same dream was shared by a dozen fellow townsmen, some of the leading citizens among them! A party was sent out to reconnoiter, but found no sign in the snow. But, so impressed were they by the similarity of dreams, that the minister called a special meeting "to discuss what this omen portended." Clearly, God was warning them of an imminent attack. Meanwhile, at about this time, an army of 350 French and Indians (Caughnawaga Mohawks, Hurons from Lorette, and Abenaki), was moving toward Deerfield. Using dogsleds and the frozen Connecticut River as a highway, they were camped near present day Battleboro, Vermont. Leaving their teams there, the bulk of the army marched overland on snowshoes and arrived on the outskirts of Deerfield on the evening of February 28th. Scouts found that the snow had drifted to the very top of the north side of the stockade, affording easy access. All seemed favorable for success. In council, Thaovenhosen, the tall, impressive chief of the Hurons, devised the plan of attack. Just before first light, he said, "March not steadily on the English fort, lest our footsteps crunching on the crust will awaken the sleeping foe and put him on his guard. Advance by a rush, then halt; then rush on, and halt again. The sound in the Englishmen's sleeping ears will seem but the north wind blowing in gusts." "Tired with his weary walking to and fro all night, trying hard to shake off the deadly drowsiness threatening to close heavy eyes . . . the watchman chanced to hear in a house he was passing, a mother crooning a lullaby to a sick child. He stood still, leaning heavily against the window sill to listen. Soothed by the brooding song and by a sound, faintly heard, as if the wind coming in fitful gusts from the north, slumber stole upon him unawares." -M. P. Wells-Smith, "The Boy Captive of Old Deerfield", 1904.

The Aftermath: During the initial attack, about 48 English were killed, 140 escaped, many of them barefoot, and 109 were captured. Of this last number approximately 21 were killed or died en route to Canada. Sixty-one were ransomed and eventually returned home, and 27 chose to stay. Many of these unredeemed captives became "Indians". Eunice, the eight year old daughter of Rev. Williams, was one of these. Marrying a Mohawk named Amrusus, she came back with her husband to visit Deerfield a number of times in later years, but never to stay. She outlived all involved in the Deerfield Massacre, dying at the age of 90 in 1786.


Edition size 15. Hot cast bronze.
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