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The small community of Deerfield was located in the remote frontier of northwest Massachusetts. Williams detailed his ordeal in a frequently reprinted book, The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion (1707).
Historic Deerfield History
This fall, your class will be taking a field trip to Deerfield, Massachusetts. You will enjoy the field trip even more if you know about the Colonial history of Deerfield! **Please follow activities in order from 1-5**
Activity 3- The Raid on Deerfield, 1704
1. Click on the links below and watch the slideshows about the Raid on Deerfield.
2. After watching the videos, click on the "COMMENTS" section of this blog. Write a two paragraph diary entry from the perspective of a child who was captured during the raid. Make sure to incorporate historical facts that you learned and personal feelings that you may be having. Then, sign your name so that I can give you credit for your work!
Hi, my name is James and I was part of the capture of several Englishmen during the 1700's. I will now tell you my story. It was a peaceful night with the howling wind mocking us as we sat inside next to the fire. My hands were cylinders of frozen flesh, my face was covered in the light from the fire and my frail body was demanding food at once. Honestly, I was happy to be here, we may have been freezing but our hearts guided us here to new lands for the take. The only thing I bewared was the Natives, they would come at night and watch us like wolves while the French attacked at day. Relentless, of course until I had to rest my pounding head on some pelts.
A few moments later I was grabbed by hands and ushered us out of the cabin and into the snow. Their hands were as bitter as bone and their grip as strong as iron. I was helpless as I was dragged out or the village and into the storm. It's humorous, how time tends to slow as your life is on edge and your senses are a blur. On cue, I passed out as the screams from the village echoed and the burning places crumbled. That was all that I remembered as I was escorted to unknown places. - Cristian Negron
Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704
On February 29, 1704, hundreds of French and Native allies raided the English settlement of Deerfield, Massachusetts, capturing men, women, and children and forcing them to march 300 miles to Canada.
The interactive web site, Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704, asks of the French and Native attack, “Was this dramatic pre-dawn assault in contested lands an unprovoked, brutal attack on an innocent collage of English settlers? Was it a justified military action against a stockaded settlement in a Native homeland? Or was it something else?”
The Raid on Deerfield in 1704 captures an era in American history full of cultural and religious tension: “When examined closely, the raid is a military saga, a collection of family stories, an exploration of the meaning of land, ownership, a confrontation among different values, a case study of colonialism.” Before delving into the site, make sure to watch the introductory video that supplies the historical context in which to place the raid, seeing as New England was not only a battlefield between the Natives and Europeans, but also between the French and the English.
As with many stories in history, a single event can breed multiple meanings, so part of this site’s mission is to present all sides of the story and encourage users to draw their own conclusion. To begin, users can orient themselves to the five cultures associated with the Raid: English, French, Kanienkehaka (Mohawk), Wendat (Huron), and Wôbanaki (Abenaki, Pennacook, Sokoki, Pocumtuck, and others).
The story menu contains eight historic scenes complete with a prologue and epilogue “each scene is described from the perspectives of the cultures that were present.” Furthermore, users can learn more about the attack by rolling their cursor over a picture depicting the various cultural components of the Raid or search through the narrative based on people, artifacts, maps, or themes.
Teachers can adapt and apply lesson plans that cover themes and include primary resources pulled from the Raid’s narrative.
Users can choose to explore the site’s resources through the following alternative routes:
Historical Background: The Raid
In the pre-dawn hours of February 29, 1704, a force of about 300 French and Native American allies from New France (Canada) launched a daring surprise attack on the English settlement of Deerfield, situated in the homeland of the Pocumtuck Indians. By the end of the three-hour attack, many were dead and 112 Deerfield men, women, and children were taken captive. These captives, led by their captors, embarked on a 300-mile forced march to Canada in harsh winter conditions. Some of the captives were later 'redeemed' (ransomed) and returned to Deerfield, but one-third chose to remain living among their former French and American Indian captors.
This event was one of many such battles fought in North America during the complex war known variously as The French and Indian Wars, Queen Anne's War, and The War of Spanish Succession. As such, the raid provided us with a window into a world of global political and religious conflict, family stories and military sagas. The raid is a story of alliances made, broken, and remade. It's an exploration of contradictory meanings of land ownership, a confrontation among different values, and a case study of colonialism. This Web site, then, is a multi-cultural glimpse of early American History rooted in cultural and religious conflicts, trade and kinship ties, personal and family honor, and genocidal expansion. To retell the story of the Deerfield Raid, we felt it was essential to tell the story of these events from the point of view of the numerous cultures involved in the conflict.
A complete list of the captives taken from Deerfield, Massachusetts during the 1704 raid by French and Indigenous forces, along with their fate. Click here for more information on the historical context behind the raid and the personal story of my ancestors. Click here to view photos of historic Deerfield.
Alexander, Joseph, 23, escaped while on the march
Alexander (née Weld), Mary, 36, returned to New England
Alexander, Mary, 2, killed while on the march
Allen, Marie Françoise (birth name unknown), abt. 12, stayed in New France
Allen, Sarah, 12, stayed in New France
Allis, Mary, 22, returned to New England
Baker, Thomas, 21, escaped from New France
Beamon (née Barnard), Hannah, 58, returned to New England
Beamon, Simon, 47, returned to New England
Belding (née Buel), Hepzibah, 54, killed while on the march
Bridgeman, James, 30, escaped on the march
Brooks (née Williams), Mary, 40, killed while on the march
Brooks, Mary, 7, likely stayed in New France
Brooks, Nathaniel, 39, returned to New England
Brooks, William, 6, fate unknown
Brown, Abigail, 25, returned to New England
Burt, Benjamin, 23, returned to New England
Burt, John, 21, returned to New England
Burt, Sarah (née Belding), 22, returned to New England
Carter, Ebenezer, 6, returned to New England
Carter (née Wheeler), Hannah, 29, killed while on the march
Carter, Hannah, 7 months, killed while on the march
Carter, John, 8, stayed in New France
Carter, Marah, 3, killed while on the march
Carter, Mercy, 10, remained in Kahnawake
Carter, Samuel Jr., 12, stayed in New France
Catlin, John, 7, returned to New England
Catlin, Ruth, 20, returned to New England
Corse (née Catlin), Elizabeth, abt. 32, killed while on the march
Corse, Elizabeth, 8, stayed in New France
Crowfoot, Daniel, 3, fate unknown
De Noyon (née Stebbins), Abigail, 20, stayed in New France
De Noyon, Jacques, 36, stayed in New France
Dickinson, Sarah, 24, returned to New England
Eastman, Joseph, 20, returned to New England
Field, John, 3, returned to New England
Field, Mary “Marguerite”, 3, stayed in New France
Field (née Bennett), Mary, 28, returned to New England
Field, Mary, 6, remained in Kahnawake
Frary (née Daniels), Mary, abt. 64, killed while on the march
French, Abigail, 6, remained in Kahnawake
French, Freedom, 11, stayed in New France
French, Martha, 8, stayed in New France
French (née Catlin), Mary, 40, killed while on the march
French, Mary, 17, returned to New England
French, Thomas, 47, returned to New England
French, Thomas Jr., 14, returned to New England
Harris, Mary, 9, remained in Kahnawake
Hastings, Samuel, 20, returned to New England
Hawks, Elizabeth, 6, killed while on the march
Hickson, Jacob, 21, died of starvation in Vermont while on the march
Hinsdale (née Rider), Mary, 23, returned to New England
Hinsdale, Mehuman, 31, returned to New England
Hoyt (née Cook), Abigail, 44, returned to New England
Hoyt, Abigail, 2, killed while on the march
Hoyt, David, 52, died of starvation in Vermont while on the march
Hoyt, Ebenezer, 8, killed while on the march
Hoyt, Jonathan, 15, returned to New England
Hoyt, Sarah, 17, returned to New England
Hull, Elizabeth, 15, returned to New England
Hurst, Benjamin, 2, killed while on the march
Hurst, Ebenezer, 5, returned to New England
Hurst, Elizabeth, 16, probably returned to New England
Hurst, Hannah, 8, remained with Iroquois of the Mountain
Hurst (née Jeffreys), Sarah, 40, returned to New England
Hurst, Sarah, 8, returned to New England
Hurst, Thomas, 12, stayed in New France
Kellogg, Joanna, 11, remained in Kahnawake
Kellogg, Joseph, 12, returned to New England
Kellogg, Martin, 45, returned to New England
Kellogg, Martin Jr., 17, escaped from New France
Kellogg, Rebecca, 8, returned to New England
Marsh, John, 24, returned to New England
Mattoon, Philip, 24, killed while on the march
Mattoon, Sarah, 17, returned to New England
Nims, Abigail, 3, stayed in New France
Nims, Ebenezer, 17, returned to New England
Nims (née Smead), Mehitable, 36, killed while on the march
Petty, Joseph, 31, escaped from New France
Petty (née Edwards), Sarah, 31, returned to New England
Pomroy (maiden name unknown), Esther, abt. 27, killed while on the march
Pomroy, Joshua, 28, returned to New England
Pomroy, Lydia, 20, returned to New England
Price, Samuel, 18, returned to New England
Richards, Jemima, 10, killed while on the march
Rising, Josiah, 9, stayed in New France
Sheldon, Ebenezer, 12, returned to New England
Sheldon (née Chapin), Hannah, 23, returned to New England
Sheldon, Mary, 16, returned to New England
Sheldon, Remembrance, 11, returned to New England
Stebbins (née Alexander), Dorothy, 42, returned to New England
Stebbins, Ebenezer, 9, probably stayed in New France
Stebbins, John, 56, returned to New England
Stebbins, John Jr., 19, returned to New England
Stebbins, Joseph, 4, stayed in New France
Stebbins, Samuel, 15, returned to New England
Stebbins, Thankful, 12, stayed in New France
Stevens (née Price), Elizabeth, 20, stayed in New France
Warner, Ebenezer, 27, returned to New England
Warner, Sarah, 4, returned to New England
Warner (née Smead), Waitstill, 24, killed while on the march
Warner, Waitstill, 2, fate unknown
Williams, Esther, 13, returned to New England
Williams (née Mather), Eunice, 39, killed while on the march
Williams, Eunice, 7, remained in Kahnawake
Williams, John, 39, returned to New England
Williams, Samuel, 15, returned to New England
Williams, Stephen, 10, returned to New England
Williams, Warham, 4, returned to New England
Wilton, John, 39, returned to New England
Wright, Judah, 26, returned to New England
[last name unknown], Frank, killed while on the march (enslaved African owned by Reverend John Williams)
[name unknown], stayed in New France (Frenchman)
[name unknown], stayed in New France (Frenchman)
To see short biographies on all of those involved in the 1704 Deerfield raid, visit http://1704.deerfield.history.museum/people/short_bios.jsp by the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA) / Memorial Hall Museum.
Sources and additional reading :
Baker, C. Alice, True Stories of New England Captives Carried to Canada during the Old French and Indian Wars, Greenfield, Mass.: Press of E. A. Hall & Co., 1897, 407 pages. Digitized by Google Books (https://play.google.com/books/).
Fournier, Marcel, De la Nouvelle-Angleterre à la Nouvelle-France : "L’histoire des captifs anglo-américains au Canada entre 1675 et 1760", Montréal, Québec : Société généalogique canadienne-française, 1992, 280 pages.
Haefeli, Evan and Kevin Sweeney, Captive Histories: English, French, and Native Narratives of the 1704 Deerfield Raid, Amherst and Boston, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006, 298 pages.
Historic Deerfield, Inc., The French and Indian Raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts, February 29, 1704, Deerfield, Mass.: Historic Deerfield Publications, 2008, 62 pages.
Deerfield Raid - History
John FRENCH’s son Thomas settled in Deerfield, MA. and was Deacon of the Deerfield Church. He was blacksmith, town clerk and deacon. He and all his family were taken in the Deerfield raid of 1704. The raiders destroyed 17 of the village’s 41 homes, and looted many of the others. Thomas’ house was not burned, so the town records were saved. His wife Mary Catlin was killed on the trip on 9 Mar 1703/04. He and their two eldest children were redeemed in 1706. Two of his daughters became Catholics, married Frenchmen and stayed in Canada. The youngest, Abigail b. 8 Feb 1698, lived as an Indian in Caughnawaga, a village of the Mohawk nation,, now an archaeological site near the village of Fonda, New York and never married. John married again to Hannah Edwards on 9 Mar 1704 in Ipswich, Essex, Mass and died in 1733.
Deerfield was the northwesternmost outpost of New England settlement for several decades during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It occupies a fertile portion of the Connecticut River Valley and was vulnerable to attack because of its position near the Berkshire Mountains. For these reasons it became the site of several Anglo-French and Indian skirmishes during its early history, as well as intertribal warfare.
At the time of the English colonists’ arrival, the Deerfield area was inhabited by the Algonquian-speaking Pocumtuck nation, with a major village by the same name. First settled by English colonists in 1673, Deerfield was incorporated in 1677. Settlement was the result of a court case in which the government in Boston returned some of Dedham to Native American control in exchange for land in the new township of Pocumtuck on which Dedham residents could settle. The Dedham settlers’ agent, John Plympton, signed a treaty with the Pocumtuck, including a man named Chaulk, who had no authority to deed the land to the colonists and appeared to have only a rough idea of what he was signing. Native Americans and the English had quite different ideas about property and land use this, along with competition for resources, contributed to their conflicts.
The Raid on Deerfield occurred during Queen Anne’s War on February 29, 1704, when French and Native American forces under the command of Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville attacked the English settlement at Deerfield, Massachusetts just before dawn, burning part of the town and killing 56 villagers.
Minor raids against other communities convinced Governor Joseph Dudley to send 20 men to garrison Deerfield in February. These men, minimally trained militia from other nearby communities, had arrived by the 24th, making for somewhat cramped accommodations within the town’s palisade on the night of February 28. In addition to these men, the townspeople mustered about 70 men of fighting age these forces were all under the command of Captain Jonathan Wells.
The Connecticut River valley had been identified as a potential raiding target by authorities in New France as early as 1702. The forces for the raid had begun gathering near Montreal as early as May 1703, as reported with reasonable accuracy in English intelligence reports. However, two incidents intervened that delayed execution of the raid. The first was a rumor that English warships were on the Saint Lawrence River, drawing a significant Indian force to Quebec for its defense. The second was the detachment of some troops, critically including Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville, who was to lead the raid, for operations in Maine (including a raid against Wells that raised the frontier alarms at Deerfield). Hertel de Rouville did not return to Montreal until the fall.
The force assembled at Chambly, just south of Montreal, numbered about 250, and was composed of a diversity of personnel. There were 48 Frenchmen, some of them Canadien militia and others recruits from the troupes de la marine, including four of Hertel de Rouville’s brothers. The French leadership included a number of men with more than 20 years experience in wilderness warfare. The Indian contingent included 200 Abenakis, Iroquois, Wyandots, and Pocumtucs, some of whom sought revenge for incidents that had taken place years earlier. These were joined by another 30 to forty Pennacooks led by sachem Wattanummon as the party moved south toward Deerfield in January and February 1704, raising the troop size to nearly 300 by the time it reached the Deerfield area in late February.
The expedition’s departure was not a very well kept secret. In January 1704, New York’s Indian agent Pieter Schuyler was warned by the Iroquois of possible action that he forwarded on to Governor Dudley and Connecticut’s Governor Winthrop further warnings came to them in mid-February, although none were specific about the target.
The raiders left most of their equipment and supplies 25 to 30 miles north of the village before establishing a cold camp about 2 miles from Deerfield on February 28, 1704. From this vantage point they observed the villagers as they prepared for the night. Since the villagers had been alerted to the possibility of a raid, they all took refuge within the palisade, and a guard was posted.
The raiders had noticed that there were snow drifts all the way to the top of the palisade this greatly simplified their entry into the fortifications just before dawn on February 29. They carefully approached the village, stopping periodically so that the sentry might confuse the noises they made with more natural sounds. A few men climbed over the palisade via the snow drifts and then opened then north gate to admit the rest. Primary sources vary on the degree of alertness of the village guard that night one account claims he fell asleep, while another claims that he discharged his weapon to raise the alarm when the attack began, but that it was not heard by many people. As the Reverend John Williams later recounted, “with horrid shouting and yelling”, the raiders launched their attack “like a flood upon us.”
The raiders’ attack probably did not go exactly as they had intended. In attacks on Schenectady, New York and Durham, New Hampshire in the 1690s (both of which included Hertel de Rouville’s father), the raiders had simultaneously attacked all of the houses at Deerfield, this did not happen. Historians Haefeli and Sweeney theorize that the failure to launch a coordinated assault was caused by the wide diversity within the attacking force.
French organizers of the raid drew on a variety of Indian populations, including in the force of about 300 a number of Pocumtucs who had once lived in the Deerfield area. The diversity of personnel involved in the raid meant that it did not achieve full surprise when they entered the palisaded village. The defenders of some fortified houses in the village successfully held off the raiders until arriving reinforcements prompted their retreat. More than 100 captives were taken, and about 40 percent of the village houses were destroyed.
The raiders swept into the village, and began attacking individual houses. Reverend Williams’ house was among the first to be raided Williams’ life was spared when his gunshot misfired, and he was taken prisoner. Two of his children and a servant were slain the rest of his family and his other servant were also taken prisoner. Similar scenarios occurred in many of the other houses. The residents of Benoni Stebbins’ house, which was not among the early ones attacked, resisted the raiders’ attacks, which lasted until well after daylight. A second house, near the northwestern corner of the palisade, was also successfully defended. The raiders moved through the village, herding their prisoners to an area just north of the town, rifling houses for items of value, and setting a number of them on fire.
As the morning progressed, some of the raiders began moving north with their prisoners, but paused about a mile north of the town to wait for those that had not yet finished in the village. The men in the Stebbins house kept the battle up for two hours they were on the verge of surrendering when reinforcements arrived. Early in the raid, young John Sheldon managed to escape over the palisade and began making his way to nearby Hadley to raise the alarm there. The fires from the burning houses had already been spotted, and “thirty men from Hadley and Hatfield” rushed to Deerfield. Their arrival prompted the remaining raiders to flee, some of whom abandoned their weapons and other supplies in a panic.
The sudden departure of the raiders and the arrival of reinforcements raised the spirits of the beleaguered survivors, and about 20 Deerfield men joined the Hadley men in chasing after the fleeing raiders. The English and the raiders skirmished in the meadows just north of the village, where the English reported “killing and wounding many of them”. However, the pursuit was conducted rashly, and the English soon ran into an ambush prepared by those raiders that had left the village earlier. Of the 50 or so men that gave chase, nine were killed and several more were wounded. After the ambush they retreated back to the village, and the raiders headed north with their prisoners.
As the alarm spread to the south, reinforcements continued to arrive in the village. By midnight, 80 men from Northampton and Springfield had arrived, and men from Connecticut swelled the force to 250 by the end of the next day. After debating over what action to take, it was decided that the difficulties of pursuit were not worth the risks. Leaving a strong garrison in the village, most of the militia returned to their homes.
The raiders destroyed 17 of the village’s 41 homes, and looted many of the others. They killed 44 residents of Deerfield: 10 men, 9 women, and 25 children, five garrison soldiers, and seven Hadley men. Of those who died inside the village, 15 died of fire-related causes most of the rest were killed by edged or blunt weapons. They took 109 villagers captives this represented 40 per cent of the village population. They also took captive three Frenchmen who had been living among the villagers. The raiders also suffered losses, although reports vary. New France’s Governor-General Philippe de Rigaud Vaudreuil reported the expedition only lost 11 men, and 22 were wounded, including Hertel de Rouville and one of his brothers. John Williams heard from French soldiers during his captivity that more than 40 French and Indian soldiers were lost Haefeli and Sweeney believe the lower French figures are more credible, especially when compared to casualties incurred in other raids.
Illustration of 1704 Deerfield Raid Published 1900
The raid has been immortalized as a part of the early American frontier story, principally due to the account of one of its captives, the Rev. John Williams. He and his family were forced to make the long overland journey to Canada, and his daughter Eunice was adopted by a Mohawk family she took up their ways. Williams’ account, The Redeemed Captive, was published in 1707 and was widely popular in the colonies.
She liked to go to Deacon French’s, who lived on what is now the site of the second church parsonage. The Deacon was the blacksmith of the village, and his shop stood a few rods west of his house. Eunice would stand hours watching him, as he beat into shape the plough-shares, that had been bent by [p.132] the stumps in the newly cleared lands. As the sparks flew up from the flaming forge, she thought of the verse in the Bible, “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward,” and wondered what it meant. Too soon, alas, she learned.
For the 109 English captives, the raid was only the beginning of their troubles. The raiders still had to return to Canada, a 300 miles journey, in the middle of winter. Many of the captives were ill-prepared for this, and the raiders were themselves short on provisions. The raiders consequently engaged in a brutal yet common practice: captives were slain when it was clear they would be unable to keep up. Only 89 of the captives survived the ordeal most of those who either died of exposure or were slain en route were women and children. Thomas’ wife Mary Caitin French was killed on the trip on 9 March 1703/04.
Deerfield Raid Map. Mary Caitlin French was killed about halfway through the journey
In the first few days several of the captives escaped. Hertel de Rouville instructed Reverend Williams to inform the others that recaptured escapees would be tortured there were no further escapes. (The threat was not an empty one — it was known to have happened on other raids.) The French leader’s troubles were not only with his captives. The Indians had some disagreements amongst themselves concerning the disposition of the captives, which at times threatened to come to blows. A council held on the third day resolved these disagreements sufficiently that the trek could continue.
Illustration by Howard Pyle showing the journey back to Canada
The raid failed to accomplish one of Governor Vaudreuil’s objectives: to instill fear in the English colonists. They instead became angry, and calls went out from the governors of the northern colonies for action against the French colonies. Governor Dudley wrote that “the destruction of Quebeck and Port Royal would put all the Navall stores into Her Majesty’s hands, and forever make an end of an Indian War”, the frontier between Deerfield and Wells was fortified by upwards of 2,000 men, and the bounty for Indian scalps was more than doubled, from £40 to £100. Dudley also promptly organized a retaliatory raid against Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia). In the summer of 1704, New Englanders under the leadership of Benjamin Church raided Acadian villages at Pentagouet (present-day Castine, Maine), Passamaquoddy Bay (present-day St. Stephen, New Brunswick), Grand Pré, Pisiquid, and Beaubassin (all in present-day Nova Scotia). Church’s instructions included the taking of prisoners to exchange for those taken at Deerfield, and specifically forbade him to attack the fortified capital, Port Royal.
Deerfield and other communities collected funds to ransom the captives, and French authorities and colonists also worked to extricate the captives from their Indian masters. Within a year’s time, most of the captives were in French hands, a product of frontier commerce in humans that was fairly common at the time. The French and Indians also engaged in efforts to convert their captives to Roman Catholicism, with modest success. Some of the younger captives, however, were not ransomed, and were adopted into the tribes. Such was the case with Williams’ daughter Eunice, who was eight years old when captured. She became thoroughly assimilated, and married a Mohawk man when she was 16. Other captives also remained by choice in Canadian and Native communities such as Kahnawake for the rest of their lives.
Two of Thomas’ daughters who stayed in Canada married and had large families. The third daughter assimilated into the Indians at Kahnawake. One great-grandson was Archbishop Octave Plessis, who was the ranking churchman to champion the Catholic viewpoint to the British government in the first decades of the 1800’s. That the Church survived is largely due to his efforts.
Negotiations for the release and exchange of captives began in late 1704, and continued until late 1706. They became entangled in unrelated issues (like the English capture of French privateer Pierre Maisonnat dit Baptiste), and larger concerns, including the possibility of a wider-ranging treaty of neutrality between the French and English colonies. Mediated in part by Deerfield residents John Sheldon and John Wells, some captives were returned to Boston in August 1706. Governor Dudley, who needed the successful return of the captives for political reason, then released the French captives, including Baptiste the remaining captives that had chosen to return were back in Boston by November 1706.
Thomas French and his children Mary and Thomas Jr. were brought back to Deerfield in 1706 by Ensign John Sheldon, in his second expedition to Canada for the redemption of the captives. An interesting evidence of the proneness of Deerfield maidens to versifying, exists in a poem said to have been written by Mary French to a younger sister during their captivity, in the fear last the latter might become a Romanist (Catholic).
Soon after his return, Thomas French was made Deacon of the church in Deerfield in place of Deacon David Hoyt, who had died of starvation at Coos on the march to Canada. In 1709, Deacon French married the widow of Benoni Stebbins. He died in 1733 at the age of seventy six, respected and regretted as an honest and usefu1:man and a pillar of the church and state.
Thomas French’s’ wife first wife Mary Catlin was born 10 Jul 1666 in Wethersfield, Hartford, CT. Her parents were John Catlin and Mary Baldwin. Mary died 9 Mar 1704 in Deerfield, Franklin, Mass.
No family suffered more than John Catlin’s in the destruction of Deerfield, Massachusetts during the Indian Massacre of 29 February, 1703/4. He was killed trying to protect his home. His sons Joseph and Jonathan were also killed. His married daughters Mary French and Elizabeth Catlin Corse were killed during the subsequent march to Canada. His wife, Mary, “being held with the other prisoners in John Sheldon‘s house, gave a cup of water to a young French officer who was dying. He was perhaps a brother of Hertel de Rouville. May it not have been gratitude for this act that she was left behind when the order came to march? She died of grief a few weeks later.”.
Thomas’ second wife Hannah Atkins was born xx. She was the widow of Joseph Edwards, and of Benoni Stebbins, who was also killed at the Deerfield Massacre. Hannah died in 1737..
Children of Thomas French and Mary Carpon
i. Mary French (8 Mar 1685 in Deerfield, Mass – 12 Mar 1685 in Deerfield)
ii. Mary French (9 Nov 1686 in Deerfield, MA – 24 Mar 1758 in Bolton, Tolland, CT) Carried to Canada 1704. Redeemed with father in 1706, at age 19.
iii. Thomas French , Jr. (2 Nov 1689 in Deerfield, MA – 26 Jun 1759 in Deerfield, MA) Redeemed with father and sister Mary in 1706, probably brought back by Ens. John Sheldon
iv. Freedom French (20 Nov 1692 in Deerfield, Franklin, MA – 6 Oct 1757 in Montréal, Ile de Montréal, Quebec) Freedom was eleven when she was carried to Canada. She was placed in the family of Monsieur Jacques Le Ber, merchant of Montreal, and on Tuesday, the 6th of April, 1706, Madame Le Ber had her baptized anew by Father Meriel, under the name of Marie Françoise, the name of the Virgin added to that of her godmother, being substituted for the Puritanic appellation of Freedom, by which she had been known in Deerfield. She signs her new name, evidently with difficulty, to this register, and never again does she appear as Freedom French. She was often recorded as a guest at the marriages of her English friends. Two years after her sister’s marrage, on the 6th of February, 1713 at the age of twenty-one, Marie Françoise French married Jean Daveluy, ten years older than herself, a relative of Jacques Le Roi, her sister’s husband. Daveluy could not write, but here, appended to the marriage register, I find for the last time the autographs of the two sisters written in full, Marie Françoise and Marthe Marguerite French.
v. Marguerite Martha French (12 May 1695 in Deerfield, MA Baptême: 23-02-1707, Montréal – 1 May 1762 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada) Martha was given by her Indian captors to the Sisters of the Congregation at Montreal. On the 23d of January, 1707, she was baptized sous condition, receiving from her god-mother the name of Marguerite in addition to her own. On Tuesday, November 24, 1711, when about sixteen., she was married by Father Meriel to Jacques Roi, aged twenty-two, of the village of St. Lambert, in the presence of many of their relatives and friends. Jacques Roi cannot write his name, but the bride, Marthe Marguerite French, signs hers in a bold, free hand, which is followed by the dashing autograph of the soldier, Alphonse de Tonty and Marie Françoise French, now quite an adept in forming the letters of her new name, also signs. On the third of May, 1733, just one month from the day of her father’s death in Deerfield, Martha Marguerite French, widow of Jacques Roi, signed her second marriage contract, and the following day married Jean Louis Ménard, at St. Laurent, a parish of Montreal.
vi. Abigail French (28 Feb 1698 Deerfield, MA – in Caughnawaga, a village of the Mohawk nation inhabited from 1666 to 1693, now an archaeological site near the village of Fonda, New York. lived as an Indian, never married.)
vii. John French (1 Feb 1704 Deerfield, Franklin, MA – 29 Feb 1704 Killed in Deerfield Raid)
John Williams wrote a captivity narrative about his experience, which was published in 1707. The work was widely distributed in the 18th and 19th centuries, and continues to be published today. Williams’ work was one of the reasons this raid, unlike others of the time, was remembered and became an element in the American frontier story. In the 19th century the raid began to be termed a massacre (where previous accounts had used words like “destruction” and “sack”, emphasizing the physical destruction) this terminology was still in use in mid-20th century Deerfield. A portion of the original village of Deerfield has been preserved as a living history museum among its relics is a door bearing tomahawk marks from the 1704 raid. The raid is commemorated there in leap years.
An 1875 legend recounts the attack as an attempt by the French to regain a bell, supposedly destined for Quebec, but pirated and sold to Deerfield. The legend continues that this was a “historical fact known to almost all school children.” However, the story, which is a common Kahnawake tale, was refuted as early as 1882.
Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704
Presents the perspectives of the Kanienkehaka, Wobanakiak, Wendats, French and English. Along with these five viewpoints, come different versions of the “facts,” different meanings that have been made out of the experience, and different stories that have been, and continue to be told. There is no “one truth” on this website rather, it is for the visitor to determine his or her own truth and meaning about this event, the crosscurrents and forces that led up to it, and its powerful legacies.
The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America By John Demos 1995 —
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.
Book Review by Benjamin Roberts — The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America
On the night of the attack the Williams home was raided, and the two youngest children (a six-month old baby and a two-year old) were scalped. John Williams, his wife, and their five other children (Samuel: age fourteen, Stephan: age twelve, Esther age eight, Eunice age six, and Warham age four) were herded along with 112 other Deerfield captives on a three hundred mile journey to Montreal that lasted for two months. During the journey the Williams children were scattered amongst the various participating Indians tribes. Upon arrival in New France the captives were sold to the French, and later negotiated for release by the governors of French and English colonies. Almost three years later John Williams made his way back to New England. A release was negotiated for his children. All were returned except for his six-year old daughter Eunice. She remained in the hands of the Kahnawake Indians who refused to sell her to the French.
After ten years of fruitless attempts for Eunice’s release, John Williams was deeply saddened by the news that Eunice had forgotten how to speak English, had been baptized to the Roman Catholic faith by Jesuit priests, and had married an Indian or a “savage” as they were referred to in the correspondence of the Williams family. Until his death in 1729, John Williams tried several times to have Eunice freed. After his death, his son Stephan Williams, carried on the crusade.
For the first time in 36 years a meeting was arranged with Eunice. The meeting between the two siblings in 1740 lasted shortly: a translator was needed to help them communicate with each other. Eunice and her Indian husband agreed to spend the summer with her brother in New England. During the visit in 1741 the family tried to persuade Eunice, her Indian husband Arosen, and three children to stay permanently however, they insisted on returning to Canada after agreeing to visit again the following year.
Another twenty years followed before Eunice would see her family again. In the meantime Eunice became a grandmother. The possibility of Eunice leaving her Indian family became even more remote. Years would pass before Eunice and her brother would again hear from each other. Eunice had a letter written and translated to her brother Stephan shortly before her 75th birthday she requested to hear about her brother’s well-being, and said that she should probably never see him in this world because she had become too old to travel. They never met again. Stephan lived to the ripe-old age of ninety, and Eunice died at the age of eighty-five, yet their descendants, both Indians and New Englanders, kept in touch deep into the 19th century.
FACT: Within two years – perhaps less – of her arrival in Kahnawake, Eunice Williams had forgotten [how] to speak English.
Demos thereafter speculates that psychology could have played an important role:
“the trauma of capture – including as it did, the deaths of mother and siblings – might call forth its own ‘repression’ forgetting everything would be a kind of defense. Whatever the actual sources of change, the result was deeply significant. From now on Eunice would communicate only with her new people, in her new place, with a new set of customary forms. Language was the pivot and symbol of her personal acculturation”.
Besides speculating about Eunice’s loss of the English language, this conjecture also makes Eunice’s life-long desire to remain with the Indians quite understandable. Eunice became accustomed to the Indian way of life: she later married, had children and grandchildren, and became a valued member of the tribe. Who would give that up?
The Raid On Deerfield
In 1700, Charles II of Spain died, pulling Europe into the War of Spanish Succession, which would last through 1714.
England and France failed to reach a neutrality agreement concerning their American colonies. Hope for neutrality overseas was probably moot. Claims to territories and borders were in dispute. Added to the European mix were the Native tribes. Some were still friendly to the English, but many felt the heavy hand of England pushing too hard, and they were aligning with the French.
North America erupted in conflict in multiple regions. This theater of the War of Spanish Succession has its own designation as “Queen Anne’s War.” One battlefront was French Acadia (now the Canadian Maritimes and Maine.) New France claimed Acadia’s boundary stretched to the Kennebec River in southern Maine. The English were strongly encroaching the area, pushing north, and claiming the land as part of the Massachusetts colony.
The French had plans to raid the Connecticut River valley as early as 1702. Native tribes began gathering in Montreal, Quebec, as early as 1703. Other military concerns — rumors of English warships on the Saint Lawrence river, and a separate raid into Maine — delayed any foray south into Massachusetts.
Deerfield, Massachusetts, was a settlement on the frontier. The village was located at the northwest corner of English colony’s border. Conflicts in Maine during 1703 gave the residents of the Deerfield concerns that they might become a target of French retaliation.
In a letter dated Aug 10, 1703, appealing to the government of Connecticut for assistance, Samuel Partridge, senior militia officer wrote
We have not yet seen ye enemy in or Bordr yet there being Usually Litl or no tyme betwixt the discovery of the Enemy & their striking their blow that we… have thought it or duty to lay this matter before you with the fears of hazzard that we are under
Fifty dragoons were dispatched. The expected summer attack never materialized. The dragoons went home.
In January 1704, the raiders assembled in Chambly, south of Montreal. Forty-eight Frenchmen joined two hundred Natives, mostly Abenaki, though others were represented–including Pocumtuc, Deerfield’s indigenous tribe. Years earlier, they had been victims of disease and a bad faith treaty. Their remaining population had been expelled. They had migrated to Canada to live under French protection.
Jean Baptiste Hertel de Rouville.
Hertel de Rouville led the raid. Born into a military family in New France, he served in the French Marines of Canada, an autonomous offshoot of the homeland’s Troupes de la marine.
The raiding force was large enough to be spotted. Natives friendly to the English gave warning, but no one knew the specific target. Although wary, the Deerfield residents still did not expect a raid during winter.
In the predawn hours of 29 February 1704, the raiders approached Deerfield. Snow drifts had piled against the palisade—a critical oversight of the village defenders. A few raiders slipped over and opened the north gate. Apparently, the tension was too much for the attackers. Instead of spreading out stealthily and positioning themselves throughout the village for a simultaneous attack, they launched their attack as they poured through the gate. They tore through the village, raiding houses, killing residents, and taking prisoners. Dwellings were put to the torch.
Prisoners were herded north, where part of the attacking force waited for the others to sate their bloodlust. Some villagers managed to fight back, holed up in one of the houses. They held out until reinforcements arrived from surrounding towns.
The arrival of men from Hadley and Hatfield cut the raid short. (One Deerfield resident had slipped away and raised the alarm, and some nearby towns had seen the conflagration.) The English skirmished and sent the raiders fleeing. But in pursuit, the English were ambushed. They fell back to the village. The raid was over–but not for the prisoners.
The French and Indians started the long winter march to back to Canada with 109 captives.
The March to Canada
Almost as famous as the raid itself, the journey of the prisoners was an arduous ordeal. Reverend John Williams — who was later ransomed, and returned from Quebec in 1706 — wrote an account of the march. Williams wife, Eunice, was one of the first victims of the hike. Under orders to kill anyone who could not keep up, a “Mohawk” tomahawked Eunice on the bank of the Green River when she stumbled. (There are those who claim to have seen her ghost at the spot). In addition to losing his wife, two of Williams’ children had been killed in the raid, along with a female African slave. The reverend’s second African slave, a man named Frank, also perished during the long walk north.
In true Puritan fashion, Williams described the ordeal as a journey through “a waste, howling wilderness.”
Between the weather and harshness of their captors, twenty captives died on the three-hundred-mile march back to Chambly.
Once in Canada, many of the captives were dispersed to various tribes, particularly youngsters and teenagers. After a time, thirty-six reportedly “chose” to stay with their captors and assimilate into native life. Among those who stayed were Williams’ daughter, also named Eunice. Others were slowly repatriated via ransom over the next few years.
Raids were not unusual. A raid on Haverhill, Massachusetts and the famous story of Hannah Duston’s captivity and escape, had taken place only seven years prior in 1697. Deerfield had not been a stranger to frontier raids. The town had been abandoned during King Philip’s War, and small skirmishes had occurred before the famous 1704 raid.
Despite the slightly varying numbers — 290 or so people in the village on the day of the raid, 44 killed, 109 marched off to Canada–contemporary descriptions of the raid used the terms, “mischief” and “assault.” In later years, historical hindsight with its usual blind spots would spur the use of the word “massacre,” attempting to heighten the “brave frontier settlers” narrative. Canadians tend to view the raid as successful guerrilla warfare, typical of the tactics of the era.
Raids continued throughout the war. New Englanders could not defend well against such hit-and-run assaults. They countered with expeditionary attacks into Acadia. The war ended with two treaties (one in Europe, one in America) in 1713.
While Massachusetts would again see conflict on their Maine/Acadian front during King George’s War in 1744-1748, the western frontier had rapidly expanded north and west. Deerfield no longer existed on the sharp end of American history.
Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704
This website documents the 1704 raid on Deerfield, MA, by 300 French and their Native American allies. Visitors are introduced to the raid by a multimedia exhibit that describes white settlement patterns that led to profound cross-cultural tensions.
Explanations includes 15 short essays that provide historical background. "Voices and Songs" provides audio commentary for the 300th anniversary of the raid, three audio versions of Native American creation stories, and 17th- and 18th-century music. Meet the Five Cultures includes brief introductions to the English, French, Mohawk, Huron, and Wobanaki.
Twenty-eight individual biographies include Native Americans, French, and English settlers. Fourteen maps depict Native American territories and the areas involved. After viewing the evidence, visitors are asked to decide whether the raid was part of a larger pattern of cross-cultural violence or an aberration.
Using the Web to Rewrite the History of the "Deerfield Massacre"
In the pre-dawn hours of February 29, 1704, a force of 240 French and Native allies launched a daring, surprise, three-hour raid on the English settlement of Deerfield, Massachusetts. By the end of the attack, 112 Deerfield men, women, and children were taken captive on a 300-mile forced march to Canada in brutal winter conditions. Some of the captives were later"redeemed" and returned to Deerfield, but some chose to remain living among their former French and Native captors.
For 300 years, this assault in contested lands has been interpreted via the dominant European viewpoint: as an unprovoked, brutal attack on an innocent village of English settlers. But the same event can be seen as a justified military action against a highly-fortified settlement in Native homelands.
On the three-hundredth anniversary of the raid, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association/Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield, MA, launched a website that commemorates and reinterprets this event from the perspectives of the participants who were present, and their descendents, allowing the viewer to reach his or her own conclusions. In doing so, this project has created a model for how any historical event&mdashindeed, any controversial subject&mdashmight be presented to online viewers.
The website, Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704 (www.1704.deerfield.history.museum), presents the perspectives of the Kanienkehaka, Wobanakiak, Wendats, French and English. Along with these five viewpoints, come different versions of the "facts," different meanings that have been made out of the experience, and different stories that have been, and continue to be told. There is no "one truth" on this website rather, it is for the visitor to determine his or her own truth and meaning about this event, the crosscurrents and forces that led up to it, and its powerful legacies.
While conventional history may have relegated the raid on Deerfield to one small episode in a larger global contest as European powers vied for control of the Spanish throne, it was&mdashand is to this day &mdashmuch more. When examined closely, the raid is a military saga, a collection of family stories, an exploration of the meaning of land ownership, a confrontation among different values, a case study of colonialism. When viewed from all sides, it is a multi-cultural glimpse of early American history, rooted in cultural and religious conflicts, trade and kinship ties, personal and family honor, and genocidal expansion. The attack on Deerfield left a profound legacy which influenced the English colonies, the Native peoples, and the French, through the colonial period, and which influences these groups and New England to this day.
The website brings together historical scenes, stories of real and composite characters' lives, historical artifacts and documents, interactive maps, voices and songs, essays, and a timeline, to illuminate broad and competing perspectives on this dramatic event.
The website uses a &lsquotab&rsquo design for historical scenes that allows users to move easily among the different perspectives, facilitating comparison and enabling the telling of the story from conflicting points of view without the loss of coherence in the narrative. A pyramidal content structure permits storytelling in small, understandable, compelling segments, supported by fuller context, thereby capturing the casual user's attention, and then providing a rich context to satisfy his/her deeper interest.
Website design by Juliet Jacobson, c PVMA 2003
In his essay "Who Owns History," Barry O'Connell, Professor of History at Amherst College, tells us that
The end to be sought is not to get something "absolutely right," but to make it come alive in all of its uncertainties. The more we can multiply perspectives from many different kinds of people, the better able we are to ask useful and specific questions out of which can come the fullest sense both of what did happen in the past and how we might understand and judge it&hellipIt is our task, as students and teachers, writers and citizens, to bring everyone and everything out of the mist so we might hear their voices, follow their actions, and respect each person, past and present, as a maker as well as a subject of history.
This website endeavors to "bring everyone and everything out of the mist" so that we might hear the voices and follow the actions of the people who were present on that day so very long ago. It is our charge, as a website project funded by grants from both the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH ) and the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS), to provide an online model for other museums and organizations wanting to present stories and events from a multiple perspective approach. We hope that in telling this old story in a new way, we have achieved that goal. However, the website is not yet complete. By October, we will have added several additional scenes, including a Legacies section that brings the story up to the present day. We will also add "how to" and curriculum sections. Please visit us often!
POSTPONED UNTIL JULY, 2022
An NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop in Deerfield, Massachusetts, held July 10-15 or July 24-29, 2022.
“One of the best NEH programs I’ve attended… It was incredibly well thought out, effectively presented, and enlightening”
Presented by the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, the Living on the Edge of Empire workshop places the Deerfield Raid of 1704 in the broader context of the history of colonial New England. To learn more about the time period, see the Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704
For a century from 1660 to 1760, the bucolic New England village of Deerfield was a crossroads where differing visions and ambitions of diverse Native American nations and European colonial empires interacted peacefully and clashed violently. During a memorable three-hour span in the early 1700s, the town stood at the center of the struggle to control the continent. To travel back in time early on the morning of February 29, 1704, would be to encounter the flicker of flames and smell of smoke and gun powder the air would be filled with a cacophony of French, English, and Native voices mixed with battle sounds, cries of despair, and cries of triumph. French, English, Native Americans, Africans, men, women, children, soldiers, ministers, farmers, and traders….all were there on that fateful day. By mid-day over 70 residents and attackers were dead while 112 men, women, and children were being hurried out of the burning village by their French and Native captors. The 1704 Raid on Deerfield is a doorway to a fascinating and important part of American history. It was an event rooted in religious conflicts, personal and family retribution, alliance and kinship ties. The Raid on Deerfield and the colonial world that produced it, helped to create a distinctive American identity and world view that became a backdrop for the American Revolution.
Workshop scholars will explore global issues while also considering ways in which this history can offer a compelling entry point for teaching the complexities of the early American colonial period and the many cultural groups who comprised it –Native nations, enslaved Africans, the French, and English settlers.
PVMA’s Deerfield Teachers’ Center has delivered high-caliber American history and humanities content to over 1000 educators. Our programs delve into topics presented by leading scholars in combination with sessions assisting teachers to integrate historical and cultural understandings into engaging and meaningful K-12 lessons. We invite you to come to Deerfield, Massachusetts, to explore the rich colonial history of the region through interactions with landscape, objects, images, documents, and living history. Join us as we study together the shared experiences of “living on the edge of empire” and consider the role those experiences played in helping to forge a distinctly American identity and, ultimately, a new nation. We look forward to meeting you!
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.