Queen Annes War Part 7

         February 29th 1704, Deerfield Massachusetts, two hours before dawn. The Reverend John Williams, his wife Eunice, their eight children and two household servants are about to prominently enter the pages of American history. Deerfield, a small hamlet of forty-one houses was once Abenakis tribal farm land. Now a band of two-hundred Abenakis, missionary Mohawks and fifty French Canadians lie shivering in the snow waiting to attack the village. It’s obvious why the Indians are there, however the French Canadians want to capture an important prisoner that they can trade for a French sea captain sitting in a Boston jail - the French want John Williams. The winter of 1704 has been harsh, and the snow drifts reach to the top of the town’s defensive palisade. The marauders scale the wall, leap into the town square, and issue blood-curdling war whoops. They move quickly, chop down doors and indiscriminately murder the town’s inhabitants. At the Williams house:

... in the first fury of their attack they dragged to the door and murdered two of the children and a negro woman called Parthena, who was probably their nurse.... They kept Williams shivering in his shirt for an hour while a frightful uproar of yells, shrieks, and gunshots sounded from without. At length they permitted him, his wife, and five remaining children to dress themselves. Meanwhile the Indians and their allies burst into most of the houses, killed such of the men as resisted, butchered some of the women and children, and seized and bound the rest.”

                                                   Francis Parkman –Deerfield

 The three-hundred mile march northward to Canada over mid-winter ice and snow begins almost immediately for the one hundred ten or so captives. Women and children are routinely tomahawked when they lag behind the group. Williams’ wife is murdered the next day. Seven year old Eunice Williams, her murdered mother’s namesake, is separated from her father. When the seven year old lags behind, instead of being dispatched by a quick tomahawk blow, an Indian flips her onto his back and she rides him like a pony. Days latter, her new Indian friend finds room for her on a sled, and while John Williams groans like a beast of burden under the weight of the heavy pack he is made to carry, little Eunice rides all the way to Canada like a Russian Czarevna, an imaginary play horse pulling her sled through the snow. At their arrival in Canada, John Williams is permanently separated from his daughter Eunice. She goes to live with a Mohawk family until all the ransoms are paid and the French sea captain is released from jail. It is time for the captives to return to Deerfield. Eunice refuses to go with them. Nothing anyone can say or do will change her mind. Confronted by her father. Eunice stands firm. She will not go back to Deerfield. John Williams returns home without Eunice. The machinery of government now turns on her behalf. The governors of New York and Massachusetts treat with the governor of Canada - send Eunice home. No, she is free to choose, and she chooses to stay in Canada. This is the Cold War three centuries too early, Eunice wants to defect. She is not alone, other young captives choose to stay in Canada with the Indians. At a time when Massachusetts women are being burned at the stake for heresy to keep them obedient, Indian women have equal footing with men. In Indian society, the women vote in elections - not men; women own all the property - not men. In Indian society women have as much freedom of choice as do men. Eunice is not going back to Massachusetts. She wants to stay an Indian. Life comes without a rule book, the rules are man-made. Every young generation must make sense of what is handed to them. The young generations of every age are driven to reshape the world in their own image. John Williams prays for his daughter, his congregation prays for his daughter, all the English colonies pray for Eunice; they ask the maker of all things for a small miracle. Of course, their prayers are answered - they received a big miracle; only nobody knows that in 1704. George Washington and his generation are not born for three more decades. They will have the same New World streak of stubbornness as Eunice, and say “NO” to all the machinery of government. When their father across the sea wants them to return to their English roots, they choose to stay part Indian - freedom suits them. The young generation melts life down to essentials and pours the mix into a mold of their own making. Three centuries after Eunice became an Indian, there is no longer such a thing as a “full blooded Indian.” They have all melted into the mold that is America.

For recalcitrant 7 year olds everywhere.

joseph tiraco, Leap Day Eve 2004

Email: t@tiraco.com

Part 1  1704 North America Part 2  1704 New England Part 3  1704 France Part 4  1704 England
Part 5  1704 Europe Part 6  1704 War Part 7  1704 Deerfield Printer Friendly