The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America / Edition 1

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Overview

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 speak

An important work of history about life in Colonial America. Early in 1704, a band of Indians and Frenchmen attacked a Massachusetts village, killing 50 and capturing 100--including Puritan minister John Williams and his five children. When at last they were released, Williams' young daughter Eunice refused to leave her Indian captors.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The armed conflicts of the 18th century between the English colonies in North America and the French settlements that stretched into Canada were fought with the support of Native American allies. Demos, a Yale history professor ( Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England ), draws on primary source material to provide a perceptive analysis of the cultural encounters that occurred between combatants by detailing the experiences of the John Williams family. Williams, a Puritan minister, and his family were captured in 1704 in their Massachusetts home by a group of Frenchmen and Native Americans, and forced to march to Canada. Although he and four of his children were later released, his wife died on the march and his daughter, Eunice, became a convert to Catholicism and married a Native American. Despite the ongoing attempts of her father and brother to persuade Eunice to return to Massachusetts, she would agree only to brief visits and lived in a Native American settlement until her death at the age of 95. Illustrations not seen by PW. History Book Club main selection ; BOMC alternate . (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"A masterpiece...recovering for us the poignant story of lives and families shattered and then painfully knitted together again in the complex cultural encounters between English, French, and Mohawk peoples in eighteenth-century America. There is nothing quite like it in our literature. It is a stunning achievement that should change forever the way we write and tell stories about the American past."—William Cronon
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394557823
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/29/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 315
  • Product dimensions: 6.59 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.26 (d)

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