Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704
Text from the 1998 Exhibition at Memorial Hall
Museum, Deerfield, Massachusetts
The 1704 raid on Deerfield was one of a series
of battles in an international struggle known in Europe as the War
of Spanish Succession. As part of this conflict, England and France
fought Queen Anne's War (1703-1713) for control of North America.
The 1704 attack was an effort by the French and Indians to halt
the gradual expansion of English settlement and political domination.
For Native Americans, an additional motive was to hold on to their
homelands and to maintain their traditional sovereignty. In February
of 1704, Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville, led a party of forty-seven
French Canadians and two hundred Alnôba [Abenaki], Pennacook,
Kanien'kehaka [Mohawk], and Huron allies in an attack on Deerfield,
resulting in the deaths of forty-four settlers and the capture of
a hundred and nine more, totaling more than half of the town's residents.
Among the captives taken were the Reverend John
Williams and his family. Upon his return, the Reverend Williams
wrote an account of his captivity, The Redeemed Captive Returning
to Zion, which heightened awareness of the raid on Deerfield
for posterity. Although most captives returned to New England, many
remained with their adoptive Native or French families in New France
[Canada]. Most notable among the former was John Williams's daughter,
Eunice, who lived out her life in Kahnawake, a Kanien'kehaka community
near Montreal. The adoption of Deerfield residents into Native communities
has fostered ongoing relationships between Deerfield and several
Native American nations. Over the years, formal and informal gatherings
and events have celebrated these connections.
As times change, so have the interpretations
of 1704. In the nineteenth century, marble tablets installed here
in the Memorial Room drew a firm line between the English "innocents"
and Native American "savage villains." This exhibit examines
the attack on Deerfield from the perspectives of the many participants.
By doing this, we begin to understand 1704 as part of a continuum
of events in the history of this country.
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