The Raid on Deerfield was a French and Indian attack that took place in Deerfield, Massachusetts in 1704 during Queen Anne’s War.
The attack was one of the deadliest during the war and occurred on February 29, 1704, when a force of 50 Frenchman and 200 native warriors attacked the town, killing 48 villagers and taking 112 prisoners.
It wasn’t the first Indian attack on Deerfield though, as the settlement had been attacked previously in 1675, during King Philip’s War, and again in 1694, during King William’s War, and would later be attacked a total of three times in 18th century.
Why Did the French & Indians Attack Deerfield?
The French and their Indian allies had been attacking British settlements in New England throughout Queen Anne’s War as England and France fought to gain control of North America.
After a series of successful raids in Maine, the French began to focus on the Connecticut Valley in 1703.
As a British settlement, Deerfield was vulnerable to attack. It was a small frontier town, the most northwest of all the settlements in Massachusetts, and was home to only about 300 settlers.
The town had a “stockade” (a fortified area in the center of the village inside a high palisade fence) but only had about 20 militiamen guarding it.
In May of 1703, Massachusetts governor, Joseph Dudley, received reports from the New York governor, Viscount Cornbury, of a war party of 100 French and Indians headed for Deerfield. Dudley reacted by sending 20 militiamen men from western Massachusetts to Deerfield to protect it.
Then in July, six months before the raid, Dudley received another report from some friendly natives of 150 armed natives and a few French troops gathering near Montreal with plans to divide into three companies and head towards Maine and the English settlements in Massachusetts.
Dudley immediately wrote to Connecticut governor Fitz-John Winthrop and Colonel Samuel Partridge, senior militia officer for western Massachusetts, to warn them.
Around the same time, Partridge also received a report of French and Indian troops from Quebec heading towards New England, according to a letter Partridge sent to Winthrop:
“I have lately read instructions from his Excellency Joseph Dudley Esqre or Governor of a particular accompt he hath recd of a company of Indians & French that are come out of Quebec & divide themselves to come on Connecticut Merrimack Rivers & the eastern points this night also by an Indian post from Albany I recd from the gentlemen there that on ye 6th Inst three Mohawks came from Canada in 9 days who say that 300 of Indians with some French are come out from Quebec in order to come upon New England, the Indian that brought the letter says he spake with said Mohawks & they told him they had been come out a month so that if these things be true as we have little grounds to question it we having testimony both from east and west agreeing.”
After reading the warnings, the Deerfield colonists immediately prepared for an attack, according to Patridge’s letter:
“…as also the incapacity we are in to defend ourselves, & being now surprised and in daily & hourly fear of the enemies approach especially at Deerfield it being also the likeliest season in all the year for such an enemy to molest us. Our governor together with ye aforesaid instructions appoints us in safe of hazard apparent to apply ourselves to your excellency for relief of men & although we have not yet seen ye enemy in or border yet there being usually little or no time betwixt the discovery of the enemy & their striking their blow that we now upon ye aforesaid have thought it or duty to lay this matter before you with the fears of hazard that we are under propose that you’d please to send up immediately upon ye receipt of these, 50 or 60 men well fixed whom when here such directions & instructions as god shall guide them & us to we hope may of his blessing be beneficial for or relief & disappointment of something of the mischievous intent of or bloody enemies.”
In response to the letter, Winthrop sent 50 soldiers to guard Deerfield in early August. The soldiers patrolled the Deerfield area for two days and, after finding no signs of an imminent attack or of any French or natives nearby, they were sent home to Connecticut.
Two months later, on October 8, natives ambushed two Deerfield men, Zebediah Williams and John Nims, as they were watching over their animals in a nearby pasture outside of the stockade. Both men were captured and taken to Canada. In response to the attack, 16 additional soldiers were sent from Connecticut.
In early December, after no further threats or signs of attack, the soldiers from Connecticut and Massachusetts were withdrawn from Deerfield and sent home.
Then, in late January and again in mid-February, Patridge and Dudley received more reports and warnings of planned French and Indian attacks in the area but, since the information contained no specific threats or intel, they offered no additional assistance to Deerfield.
It wasn’t until Partridge received reports sometime in February of Pennacook Indians near the New England seacoast area raiding the towns of Berwick, Maine, Haverhill, Massachusetts and Exeter, New Hampshire that he finally sent some additional soldiers to Deerfield, the last of which arrived on February 25.
The threat grew more serious when the Pennacook raiding party, which included about 30 or 40 warriors led by their sachem Wattanummon, joined the French and Indian war party from Canada, led by French commander Jean-Baptiste Hertel De Rouville, about 110 miles north of Deerfield in Cowass as they headed south towards Deerfield.
Then, a few days before the raid, a strange occurrence took place when some of the Deerfield settlers reported hearing trampling noises around the settlement but could not see anyone there, which many of the villagers saw as a bad omen, according to Herbert Milton Sylvester in his book Indian Wars of New England:
“The historian, in writing of this Deerfield massacre, refers to a happening of supernatural interest, which for two or three evenings previous to the attack of the Indians became a topic of curious questioning among the Deerfield people. The Reverend Solomon Stoddard alludes to it in these words: ‘The people of Deerfield were strangely amazed by a trampling noise around the fort, as if it were besieged by the Indians.’ There were old men in Deerfield who were led by this evidence to recall similar omens preceding the attack of Philip [during King Philip’s War], ‘when from the clear sky came the sound of horse troops, the roar of artillery, the rattle of small arms and the beating of drums to the charge’” (Sylvester 53).
It is not known what the strange sounds were, but when the attack happened a few days later, the villagers later looked back on it as a supernatural warning of what was to come.
What Happened During the Raid?
On the night of February 28, 1704, a group of 50 Frenchman and 200 native warriors approached the settlement, leaving their supplies in a nearby meadow about 25 to 30 miles north of the area. They established a cold camp about 2 miles from Deerfield where they observed the villagers from a distance.
According to Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney in their book Captors and Captives, this raiding party was one of the largest that had ever been used in any of the French and Indian Wars and was a serious threat:
“De Rouville’s raiding party was almost five times larger than the raid that his father had led against Salmon Falls, New Hampshire, in winter 1690, and it was more than twice the size of the force of French and Indians that had been sent from Quebec to attack Casco, Maine, in spring 1690. It was larger than the force that had attacked Schenectady in February 1690, though it was easier to move large bodies of men against targets along the New York frontier than against New England. In the 1680s and 1690s, the French had on occasion sent large expeditions than these against the Iroquois League. Mounting expeditions of this size against New England was something new.” (Haefeli and Sweeney 101.)
Since the villagers had been warned of the pending attack, they all retired to the stockade area of the village that night while a guard stood watch.
Then, sometime around 4 am, the guard fell asleep and the raiders made their move. Making their way across the meadow, they approached the stockade wall and easily scaled it thanks to a large snow drift piled up next to it, according to the article in American Heritage magazine:
“Over the river, on the ice. Across a mile of meadowland, ghostly and white. Past the darkened houses at the north end of the street. Right up to the stockade. The snow has piled hugely here; the drifts make walkways to the top of the fence. A vanguard of some forty men climbs quickly over and drops down on the inside. A gate is opened to admit the rest. The watch awakens, fires a warning shot, cries, ‘Arm!’ Too late. The attackers separate into smaller parties and ‘immediately set upon breaking open doors and windows.’” (American Heritage paragraph 8).
The raider’s plan was to be stationed outside of each house and also at each gate when the attack began in order to trap the villagers but this plan failed when the warning shot was fired and the villagers were alerted to their presence.
As a result, the raiders were not in place when the fighting began and they did not reach the south gate in time to cut off that escape route.
When the fighting commenced, the villagers immediately tried to find ways to escape their houses by jumping out of windows or off of roofs and several managed to escape the stockade altogether through the south gate.
One of the first houses attacked was that of Reverend John Williams and his family, according to Williams in a book he later wrote about the experience, called The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion:
“On Tuesday, the 29th of February, 1703–4, not long before break of day, the enemy came in like a flood upon us; our watch being unfaithful;—an evil, the awful effects of which, in the surprisal of our fort, should bespeak all watchmen to avoid, as they would not bring the charge of blood upon themselves. They came to my house in the beginning of the onset, and by their violent endeavors to break open doors and windows, with axes and hatchets, awaked me out of sleep; on which I leaped out of bed, and, running towards the door, perceived the enemy making their entrance into the house. I called to awaken two soldiers in the chamber, and returning toward my bedside for my arms, the enemy immediately broke into the room, I judge to the number of twenty, with painted faces, and hideous acclamations.” (Williams 10-11).
Williams goes on to explain that the raiders murdered two of his children in front of him before eventually marching him and his wife and their remaining children out of the house:
“About sun an hour high, we were all carried out of the house, for a march, and saw many of the houses of my neighbors in flames, perceiving the whole fort, one house excepted, to be taken. Who can tell what sorrows pierced our souls, when we saw ourselves carried away from God’s sanctuary, to go into a strange land, exposed to so many trials; the journey being at least three hundred miles we were to travel; the snow up to the knees, and we never inured to such hardships and fatigues; the place we were to be carried to, a Popish country. Upon my parting from the town, they fired my house and barn. We were carried over the river, to the foot of the mountain, about a mile from my house, where we found a great number of our Christian neighbors, men, women, and children, to the number of an hundred, nineteen of which were afterward murdered by the way, and two starved to death, near Cowass, in a time of great scarcity or famine the savages underwent there” (Williams 12-13).
Another house that was attacked was that of Ensign John Sheldon. Fully aware of the threat of Indian raids on the town, Sheldon had the foresight to reinforce the door, which made it nearly impossible to break down. The raiders hacked at the door with their tomahawks and hatchets but only managed to chop a small hole in the door in which they then inserted their rifle and fatally shot Mrs. Sheldon.
John Sheldon was not home at the time of the attack but his son, John and daughter-in-law Hannah were upstairs and attempted to escape by jumping out the window. Both landed in the snow below the window but Hannah sprained her ankle in the fall and was captured, although John got away and made it to Hadley, Mass where he raised the alarm.
Only one house within the stockade managed to hold out against the raiders, the house of the militia leader, Sgt. Benoni Stebbins, which was attacked late in the raid.
Although Stebbins himself was killed in the fight, seven men and a few women successfully defended the home from the attackers, according to an account of the raid in a letter by Samuel Patridge:
“One house, viz. Benoni Stebbins’s, they attacked later than some others. That those in it were well awakened, being 7 men, besides women and children, who stood stoutly to their arms, firing upon the enemy, and the enemy [coming] upon them, causing several of the enemy to fall, of which was one Frenchman, a gentleman to [all] appearance. The enemy gave back, they strove to fire the house, [but] our men killed 3 or 4 Indians in their attempt. The enemy being numerous about the house, poured much shot upon the house; [but] the walls being filled up with brick, the force of the shot was repelled. Yet they killed said Stebbins, and wounded one man and one woman, of which the survivors made no discovery of the assailants, but with more than ordinary courage kept firing, having powder and ball sufficient in said house. The enemy betook themselves to the next house and the meeting house, both of which but 8 rods [i.e. 44 yards] distant.” (Captive Histories 65.)
Many of the villagers managed to hide from the raiders in the basement of their houses but later died when the raiders set the houses on fire, according to Samuel Adams Drake in his book The Border Wars of New England:
“All the rest [of the houses] were set on fire, to burn along with the ghastly evidences of the morning’s work. Death, in its most terrible form, thus overtook many who, to escape the tomahawk, had hid themselves in their cellars, only to be stifled beneath the ruins of their burning dwellings. When all was over, forty-seven of the unresisting inhabitants lay dead in or around their own homes. A hundred and twelve more, half dead with cold and fright, were crowded into the Sheldon house, spared for the time being for their reception” (Drake 180.)
Around 9 or 10 am, some of the raiders began to leave the stockade with their captives and head north. Around the same time, a group of about 30 to 40 militiamen from Hatfield and Hadley arrived, after spotting the smoke and flames on the horizon, and began pursuing the raiders.
The militiamen and raiders skirmished in a meadow just north of Deerfield and nine militiamen were killed and several were wounded when they later ran into an ambush set by the raiders. The surviving militiamen then retreated back to Deerfield.
The next day, an additional 250 militiamen met at Deerfield but determined it wasn’t feasible to chase the raiders and rescue the captives.
Captivity and March to Canada:
The villagers who were captured were forced to march the 300-mile-long journey to Canada in the deep snow in the dead of winter. Those who could not keep up were killed.
Chances of survival seemed to depend on the captive’s gender and age since infants and young children fared the worst and more adult men survived than adult women, especially pregnant women and those with young children.
In the first few days of the journey, several of the captives escaped but after De Rouville instructed Reverend Williams to inform the other captives that recaptured escapees would be tortured, there were no other escape attempts.
Of the more than 100 villagers who were captured, only 89 survived the journey to Canada.
After reaching Canada, the Indians sold many of the captives to the French, who ransomed about 60 of them back to the English over a three-year period.
Many of the younger captives assimilated and were adopted into the Indian tribes or French Canadian society. In fact, 36 Deerfield captives, mostly children and teenagers at the time of the raid, remained in Canada permanently, many of them marrying into French or Indian families.
Fates of the Deerfield Captives:
Total Captured: 112
Died on march to Canada: 21
Returned by 1707: 47
Returned by 1714: 8
Returned Later: 2
Remained with French: 19
Remained with Natives: 7
Fate Unknown: 3
Who Were the Victims of the Raid?
David Alexander, age 45, killed in the meadow fight
Mary (Weld) Alexander, age 37, captured and later returned to Deerfield
Joseph Alexander, age 23, captured but escaped the first night
Mary Alexander, age 2, captured and killed en route to Canada
Sarah Allen, age 12, captured, remained in Canada where, in 1710, she married and went by Marie Madeleine
Mary Allis, age 22, captured, returned in 1710
Samuel Allis (Of Hatfield), age 25, killed in the meadow fight
Captain Thomas Baker (soldier), age 22, captured, escaped in 1705
Hannah (Barnard) Beaman, age 58, captured and later returned
Simon Beaman, age 59, captured and later returned
Hepzibah (Buell) Belding, age 55, captured and killed en route to Canada
Robert Boltwood (of Hadley), age 21, killed in the meadow fight
Samuel Boltwood (of Hadley), age 56, killed in the meadow fight
William Boltwood (of Hadley), age 17, captured, died in 1714 returning from Canada
John Brigdman (soldier), age 29, captured but escaped in the meadows the same day
Mary (Williams) Brooks, age 31, captured and miscarried en route to Canada and was killed
Mary Brooks, age 7, captured, never returned
Nathaniel Brooks, age 40, captured and ransomed in 1707
William Brooks, age 6, captured, never returned
Abigail Brown, age 26, captured and returned
Benjamin Burt, age 24, captured and ransomed in 1706
Sarah (Belden) Burt, age 22, captured and ransomed in 1706
John Burt, age 22, captured and ransomed in 1706
John Caitlin, age 61, killed in the village
John Caitlin, age 17, captured and ransomed in 1706
Jonathan Caitlin, age 42, killed in the village
Joseph Caitlin, age 23, killed in the meadow fight
Ruth Caitlin, age 20, captured and ransomed in 1707
Ebenezer Carter, age 7, captured and ransomed in 1707 for 24 pounds
Hannah (Weller) Carter, age 30, captured and killed en route to Canada
Hannah Carter, age 3, captured and killed en route to Canada
John Carter, age 9, captured but remained in Canada as Jean Chartier
Mary Carter, age 7 months, killed en route to Canada
Mercy Carter, age 10, captured and remained in Canada, married an Indian
Samuel Carter, age 12, captured and died in Canada in 1714
Thomas Carter, age 5, killed in the village
Elizabeth (Caitlin) Corse, age 34, captured and killed en route to Canada
Elizabeth Corse, age 8, captured and remained in Canada as Marie Élisabeth
Daniel Crowfoot (soldier), age unknown, captured
Abigail (Stebbins) de Noyen, age 26, captured and remained in Canada with husband
Jacques de Noyen, age 27, captured and remained in Canada
Sarah Dickinson (of Hadley), age 48, captured
Joseph Eastman (student), age 21, captured and redeemed in 1707
John Field, age 4, captured and ransomed
Mary (Bennett) Field, age 28, captured and ransomed
Mary Field, age 7, captured and remained in Canada where she later married
Sarah Field, age 2, killed in village
Samuel Foote (of Hatfield), age 27, killed in the meadow fight
Mary (Daniels) Frary, age 62, captured and killed en route to Canada
Samson Frary, age 72, killed in the village
Abigail French, age 7, captured and remained in Canada, lived with Indians
Freedom French, age 12, captured an remained in Canada as Marie Francoise French
John French, age 1 month, killed in the village
Martha French, age 9, captured and remained in Canada where she married a French man and went by Marguerite
Mary (Caitlin) French, age 40, captured and killed en route to Canada
Mary French, age 18, captured and ransomed in 1706
Thomas French, age 47, captured and ransomed in 1706
Thomas French, age 17, captured and ransomed in 1706
Mary Harris, age 11, captured and remained in Canada where she later married
Samuel Hastings, age 20, captured and never returned
Alice (Allis) Hawks, age 57, killed in the village
Elizabeth Hawks, age 7, killed en route to Canada
John Hawks, age 31, killed in the village
John Hawks, age 8, killed in the village
Martha Hawks, age 5, killed in the village
Thankful (Smead) Hawks, age 27, killed in the village
Thankful Hawks, age 3, killed in the village
Jacob Hickson/Hix, age 19, killed en route to Canada
Mehuman Hinsdale, age 31, captured and ransomed in 1706
Mary (Rider) Hinsdale, age 24, captured and ransomed in 1706
Samuel Hinsdale, age 1, killed in the village
Abigail (Cooke) (Pomeroy) Hoyt, age 44, captured and later returned
Abigail Hoyt, age 3, captured and killed en route to Canada
David Hoyt Sr, age 52, captured and killed en route to Canada
David Hoyt Jr., age 28, killed in the meadow fight
Ebenezer Hoyt, age 9, captured and never returned
Jonathan Hoyt, age 16, captured and ransomed in 1707
Sarah Hoyt, age 18, captured and returned in 1714
Elizabeth Hull, age 16, captured and later returned
Benjamin Hurst, age 2, captured and killed en route to Canada
Ebenezer Hurst, age 5, captured and remained in Canada as Antoine Nicolas
Elizabeth Hurst, age 16, captured and remained in Canada as Marie Elizabeth
Hannah Hurst, age 8, captured and later returned
Sarah (Jeffreys) Hurst, age unknown, captured and later returned
Sarah Hurst, age 18, captured and later returned
Thomas Hurst, age 12, captured and remained in Canada
Joseph Ingersol, age 29, killed in the village
Jonathan Ingram (of Hadley), age unknown, killed in the meadow fight
Joanna Kellogg, age 11, captured and remained in Canada where she married an Indian
Jonathan Kellogg, age 5, killed in the village
Joseph Kellogg, age 13, captured and released in 1714
Martin Kellogg, age 46, captured and ransomed in 1706
Martin Kellogg, age 18, captured and escaped in 1705
Rebecca Kellogg, age 9, captured and remained in Canada with the Indians until 1728
John Marsh (of Hatfield), age 32, captured
Phillip Mattoon, age 24, captured and killed en route to Canada
Rebecca (Nims) Mattoon, age 24, killed in the village
Baby Girl Mattoon, killed in the village
Sarah Mattoon, age 17, captured and later returned
Abigail Nims, age 4, captured and remained in Canada as Marie Elizabeth
Ebenezer Nims, age 18, captured and returned in 1714
Henry Nims, age 22, killed in the village
Mary Nims, age 5, killed in the village
Mercy Nims, age 5, killed in the village
Mehitable (Smead) Nims, age 36, killed en route to Canada
Mehitable Nims, age 7, killed in the village
Joseph Petty, age 31, captured and escaped in 1705
Sarah (Edwards) Petty, age 25, captured and ransomed in 1706
Esther Pomeroy, age unknown, captured and killed en route to Canada
Joshua Pomeroy, age 29, captured and returned somtime before 1708
Lydia Pomeroy, age 10, captured and later returned
Samuel Price, age 18, captured and returned about 1714
Sarah (Webb) Price, age 53, captured and killed en route to Canada
Jemima Richards, age 9, captured and never returned
Josiah Rising (Visiting), age 10, captured and remained in Canada as Ignace Raizenne
Mary/Mercy Roote, age 15, captured and killed in the village
Ebenezer Sheldon, age 13, captured later returned
Hannah (Stebbins) Sheldon, age 40, killed in the village
Hannah (Chapin) Sheldon, age 24, captured and ransomed in 1706
Mary Sheldon, age 17, captured and ransomed in 1706
Mercy Sheldon, age 3, killed in the village
Remembrance Sheldon, age 7, captured and ransomed in 1706
Thomas Sheldon, age 27, killed in the village
Elizabeth (Lawrence) Smead, age 66, killed in the village
Mary (Price) Smead, age 23, killed in the village
Sarah Smead, age 4, killed in the village
William Smead, age 3, killed in the village
Martin Smith, age unknown, killed in the village
Benoni Stebbins, age 49, killed in the Village
Dorothy (Alexander) Stebbins, age 44, captured and returned six days later
Ebenezer Stebbins, age 9, captured and remained in Canada as Jacques Charles Stebenne
John Stebbins, age 57, captured and returned six days later
John Stebbins Jr., age 20, captured and returned six days later
Joseph Stebbins, age 4, captured and remained in Canada as Joseph Stebenne
Samuel Stebbins, age 16, captured and returned in 1723
Thankful Stebbins, age 12, captured and remained as Louise Therese
Andrew Stevens (Indian), age 25, killed in the village
Elizabeth (Price) Stevens, age 21, captured and remained in Canada where she later married and went by Marie Elizabeth
Benjamin Waite (of Hatfield), age 64, killed in the meadow fight
Ebenezer Warner, age 29, captured and returned
Sarah Warner, age 5, captured and returned
Waitstill (Smead) Warner, age 25, captured and killed en route to Canada
Waitstill Warner, age 3, captured and remained in Canada
Nathaniel Warner (of Hadley), age 23, killed in the meadow fight
Mary Wells, age 29, killed in the village
Esther Williams, age 13, captured and ransomed in 1706
Eunice (Mather) Williams, age 40, killed en route to Canada
Eunice Williams, age 8, captured and remained in Canada where she married an Indian
Jersua Williams, age 1 month, killed in the village
John Williams, age 1, killed in the village
John Williams, age 40, captured and ransomed in 1706
Samuel Williams, age 15, captured and ransomed in 1706
Steven Williams, age 9, captured and ransomed in 1706
Warham Williams, age 4, captured and ransomed in 1706
Frank (Williams servant), age unknown, killed en route to Canada
Parthena (Williams servant), age unknown, killed in the village
John Weston, age unknown, captured
Judah Wright (Soldier), age 27, captured and returned about 1707
Where Are the Deerfield Victims Buried?
According to local legend, the survivors of the raid buried the 48 victims in a mass grave in the corner of the town cemetery.
In 1901, a monument was placed on the grave, which reads “The Dead of 1704” on one side and “The grave of 48 men women and children, victims of the French and Indian raid on Deerfield. February 29, 1704” on the opposite side.
The cemetery, known as Old Albany Cemetery, still exists and is located at the end of Albany Road.
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