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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…[more]