Massacre on the Merrimack : Hannah Duston's Captivity and Revenge in Colonial America
Overview - Early on March 15, 1697, a band of Abenaki warriors in service to the French raided the English frontier village of Haverhill, Massachusetts. Striking swiftly, the Abenaki killed twenty-seven men, women, and children, and took thirteen captives, including thirty-nine-year-old Hannah Duston and her week-old daughter, Martha. Read more...
More About Massacre on the Merrimack by Jay Atkinson
Early on March 15, 1697, a band of Abenaki warriors in service to the French raided the English frontier village of Haverhill, Massachusetts. Striking swiftly, the Abenaki killed twenty-seven men, women, and children, and took thirteen captives, including thirty-nine-year-old Hannah Duston and her week-old daughter, Martha. A short distance from the village, one of the warriors murdered the squalling infant by dashing her head against a tree. After a forced march of nearly one hundred miles, Duston and two companions were transferred to a smaller band of Abenaki, who camped on a tiny island located at the junction of the Merrimack and Contoocook Rivers, several miles north of present day Concord, New Hampshire. This was the height of King William's War, both a war of terror and a religious contest, with English Protestantism vying for control of the New World with French Catholicism. After witnessing her infant's murder, Duston resolved to get even. Two weeks into their captivity, Duston and her companions, a fifty-one-year-old woman and a twelve-year-old boy, moved among the sleeping Abenaki with tomahawks and knives, killing two men, two women, and six children. After returning to the bloody scene alone to scalp their victims, Duston and the others escaped down the Merrimack River in a stolen canoe. They braved treacherous waters and the constant threat of attack and recapture, returning to tell their story and collect a bounty for the scalps. Was Hannah Duston the prototypical feminist avenger, or the harbinger of the Native American genocide? In this meticulously researched and riveting narrative, bestselling author Jay Atkinson sheds new light on the early struggle for North America.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
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A strong sense of place and vivid narration underscore journalist Atkinson’s tale of war, survival, and murder in colonial Massachusetts. Atkinson (Memoirs of a Rugby-Playing Man) opens with a heart-pounding account of the 1697 Abenaki raid on Haverhill, Mass., the English frontier town on the Merrimack River that was home to the Duston family. It was near the end of King William’s War, a bloody contest waged by the French, English, and various Native American tribes for control of northern New England. Thomas Duston got everyone in his family safely to the garrison house except his wife, Hannah, and their newborn daughter, Martha, who were taken prisoner. Grief-stricken when one of the Abenaki killed Martha, Hannah, a sturdy goodwife and devout Puritan, plotted and carried out a horrific revenge. Atkinson’s storytelling skills are superb; he crisply moves from events in Haverhill across the panorama of colonial rivalries in North America to Hannah’s captivity experiences. Yet there is a disconnect between Atkinson’s emphasis on the Merrimack landscape and the questions about motivations for Hannah’s revenge that he considers central to understanding her story. In failing to fully consider the religious, social, and cultural life of colonial women, Atkinson’s otherwise excellent account remains incomplete. (Sept.)