The Background of the Fight at the Bars, Deerfield, Massachusetts, August 25, 1746
1. Read the following account of the fight at the Bars, recorded by Dr. Stephen West Williams (1790-1855). [Suggestion: members of the class read aloud as others follow along.]
2. Answer the questions at the end of the story.
Dr. Williams interviewed Eunice Allen (1733-1818), who was a member of the family who was attacked by Indians on August 25, 1746. She and her family and several neighbors were in the meadows south of the town of Deerfield, preparing to gather hay they had cut the day before when they were surprised by an Indian attack.
When Dr. Williams talked to Eunice she was more than 80 years old and had been confined to her bed for 16 years, but Dr. Williams tells the reader that "she remembered the events of that day as perfectly as if they had taken place yesterday."
In the year 1744, the war again commenced between France and Great Britain, and the Indians again became the allies of France. In 1745 there were several skirmishes with the Indians in various parts of the country, but none within the borders of Deerfield, Massachusetts or in which her citizens were engaged.
On the 25th of August, 1746, occurred the Barrs Fight, at the southwest part of Deerfield Meadows.
The members of the haymaking group were:
Samuel Allen - age 44
Eunice Allen - 13
Caleb Allen - age 9
Samuel Allen - age 8
Oliver Amsden - age 18
Simeon Amsden - age 9
Eleazer Hawks - age 29
And 2 soldiers, Gillett and Saddler, to protect them.
The Story (in the words of Dr. Williams)
Fort Massachusetts, at the western foot of Hoosac Mountain, about thirty miles west of Deerfield, was taken on the 20th of August, 1746. After the capitulation, a party of Indians, meditating an attack upon Deerfield, came down upon the borders of the meadows, and reconnoitred them. They first examined the North Meadow, and then the South. Finding a quantity of hay in the South Meadow, two miles south of the Street, and supposing that our people would be there at work the next day, they concealed themselves in the brush and underwood upon the orders of the adjoining hills. The next day, ten or twelve men and children, the men armed with guns, which they always carried with them, went into the field and commenced their labor. A Mr. Eleazer Hawks was out hunting partridges on the hills, where the Indians lay, that morning. He saw a partridge, and shot it. This alarmed the Indians, who supposed they were discovered. They immediately killed and scalped Mr. Hawks, and then proceeded to attack the workmen. They fought some time, which gave some of the children an opportunity to escape. Mr. Allen, father of Miss Allen, resolutely maintained his ground in defence of three children, who were at work with him in the field, until he killed one or two of the enemy. When he was overpowered, he fought them with the breech of his gun, but he was finally shot. The shirt which he wore on that day, torn with many balls and gashed with tomahawks, is still to be seen, as a curiosity, either in the Museum of the Deerfield Academy or at the house of his grandson, at the Barrs. In this engagement three men and a boy were killed, one boy was taken prisoner, and Miss Allen was wounded in the head, and left for dead, but not scalped. As she tried to make her escape, she was pursued by an Indian with an uplifted tomahawk and a gun. She was extremely active, and would have outrun him, had he not fired upon her. The ball missed her, but she supposed that it had struck her, and in her fright she fell. The Indian overtook her, and buried his tomahawk in her head, and left her for dead. The firing in the meadows alarmed the people in the Street, who ran to the scene of action, and the Indians made a hasty retreat, and were pursued for several miles by a body of men under the command of Captain Clesson.
Samuel Allen, Jr., the boy who was taken in this engagement, was carried to Canada, and remained with the Indians a year and nine months. He was finally redeemed by Colonel John Hawks, of this town, who was a celebrated partisan officer in Indian warfare, and a most useful and worthy man. He (Samuel) was extremely loth to see Colonel Hawks, who was his uncle, and when he came into his presence he refused to speak the English language, pretending to have forgotten it; and although he was dressed most shabbily, fared most miserably, and was covered with vermin, he was very much opposed to leaving the Indians. Threats and force were finally employed to make him consent to quit them, and he asserted to the day of his death, that the Indian mode of life was the happiest.
1. All the members of the haying group were male except Eunice Allen. In this time period girls' work was usually housework or work in the garden. Eunice had 2 older sisters, Chloe, aged 15 and Sarah, aged 16 and a younger sister, Hannah, aged 11, who were not there that day. Why do you think Eunice was in the group?
2. Samuel Allen, Jr.'s father was killed, his sister, Eunice, was severely wounded in the head, and he was taken captive to Canada. And yet, when he was redeemed, he at first refused to speak English and did not want to come back to Deerfield. Can you understand why? Explain.
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