Deerfield — Queen Anne's War
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
Door Of The Old Indian House.
The stout old door, hacked and scarred by the blows of the savages, is carefully preserved by the Pocomptuck Valley Memorial Association as a precious relic of that awful night.
The house of Benoni Stebbins, about eight rods southwest from Sheldon's, was occupied by seven men, with some women and children. They had a moment's notice, and the first attack was repelled, they killing several of the enemy and wounding the French officer before spoken of. Having failed in the surprise, the house was surrounded, and bullets showered upon it like hail. The walls were lined with brick, and so protected the inmates. In an attempt to set the house on fire three or four Indians were killed. As the light of day increased the keen marksmen, from the loop-holes, singled out and shot down the besiegers until they took shelter in the Old Indian House, the meeting-house, and the house of Mr. Williams. From this shelter the attack was renewed. Mr. Stebbins was killed, and one man and one woman wounded; but the brave survivors had no thought of accepting terms of capitulation, which were repeatedly tendered them. The women were busy in casting the bullets with which the men plied the enemy.
The touching account given by Mr. Williams in the "Redeemed Captive" of the capture and sufferings of his family, so often published, need not be repeated, and nothing can be added to it.
It was now nearly eight o'clock, and those not engaged in caring for the prisoners, and securing or wasting the contents or the houses, had maintained a determined resolution to capture the Stebbins house, and hotly continued the assault. At this time, however, they were suddenly attacked by a party from the towns below, led on by Sergt. Benjamin Wait. The enemy were soon driven from the fort, setting fire to the Sheldon house as they left it. This was soon extinguished. Thomas Selden and Joseph Ingersoll were killed in this affair. The siege being raised, the brave garrison, with men from Capt. Wells, joining their rescuers, to the number of 57 men in all, at once pursued the retreating enemy across the meadows. Here, their small numbers being seen, De Rouville halted his front and formed an ambuscade. Into this the excited and exasperated men, led on by Sergt. Wait, fell, in spite of a command to retreat by the cautious Capt. Wells. In this trap and on the retreat nine men were lost. The enemy in turn pursued the English until they were within the stockades, and then withdrew to Petty's Plain. The Stebbins house, which had been so nobly defended for nearly four hours, took fire while the men were engaged in the meadows and was burned, the women and children having left it and gone to Wells' fort. The loss of the enemy was three Frenchmen and about thirty savages. De Rouville retreated the first night, by the Indian path, to the upper part of Greenfield Meadows. The next morning Mrs. Williams was murdered near the foot of Leyden Glen, and fresh horrors accompanied each day's doleful march.
By midnight, February 29th, 80 men had collected in the town; a pursuit and night-surprise of the enemy were considered, but, partly from want of snow-shoes,—for it had begun to thaw,—and partly from fear of endangering the captives, it was not attempted. By two o'clock, March 1st, some 250 soldiers were on the ground. Then the question of a pursuit was again taken up, but the same reasons which before prevailed prevented its adoption. March 2d the dead, with the exception of Mrs. Williams, were buried in one common grave in the burying-ground at the foot of Hitchcock Lane,—54 in all.
The captives numbered 112; of these, 2 escaped the same day, about 8 were murdered before leaving the valley, and about 12 more perished before Canada was reached.
Old Indian House, Built By Ensign John Sheldon.
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03 Aug 2005