"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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