Deerfield — Queen Anne's War

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

      At the opening of this war the town was in a low condition, still destitute of clothing, deeply in debt, the palisades decayed and falling down, having been constructed of poor material, doubtless, in the haste of erection. June 22, 1702, the town voted "to right up" the fort,—every man his proportion as last laid out to him, to be done by Wednesday night, under a penalty of 3s. per rod, and 1s. per rod for each day's delay. June 29th a petition was sent to the General Court, setting forth the condition of the defenses, the presence of an unusual number of Indians, and their fears of some evil design. In response, Col. Pynchon was directed to send his lieutenant-colonel to Deerfield to stay and see that the fortifications were put in order, and "cover them with a scout of ten men while about the work."
      The most memorable event in the history of our town was the attack by French and Indians, Feb. 24, 1703-4. The Abenakis of Maine had complained to the French governor of English aggression, and asked redress. The fidelity of this tribe had been doubtful, and De Vaudreuil at once organized an expedition of 200 men to this valley. When the place was taken it was given over to the Indians for fire and slaughter, without let or hindrance. So the Abenakis were revenged, and their friendship secured to the French interests.
      The palisades at this time inclosed about 15 acres on Meeting-house Hill, the north line being at the brick meeting-house, the south at the Wilson place. The population was about 250, with 20 garrison soldiers quartered among the families. The snow, which lay three feet deep, was drifted against the stockades and covered with a hard crust.
      Hertell de Rouville, the commander of the French forces, arrived at Petty's Plain at night on the 28th of February, where his men deposited their packs and made ready for the attack. An hour before day the next morning, Tuesday, the 29th, the whole army stole silently across the meadows, and on the drifted snow over the stockades, and scattered among the houses. When they were discovered by the watch, he discharged his musket and cried, "Arm! arm!" This was the signal for the assault. Doors and windows were broken down; men, women, and children dragged from their beds, murdered in cold blood, or bound as captives. The main body of the French stood to their arms, firing upon the houses and killing all who resisted, shooting the cattle and sheep, while detached parties were securing "provisions, drink, and cloathing," which were packed up and carried to their rendezvous, others collecting and guarding the prisoners and leading them to the same place. After overrunning the fort, the picketed house of Capt. Wells, who lived on the Fogg lot, was fiercely assaulted, but successfully defended; and little progress was made at the south end of the street by the enemy. The house of Ens. John Sheldon, more strongly built than most, resisted the first onset. With their hatchets the assailants soon cut a hole through the front door. Firing at random through this, Mrs. Sheldon was killed. Entrance was finally effected at the back door, which a frightened lad left unfastened. Into this house the captives were temporarily collected. It was here that the wife of John Catlin performed an act of Christian charity which secured her release. A French officer, severely wounded, was brought in and laid upon the floor in their midst; in great distress, he called for water. Mrs. Catlin tenderly supplied his wants. When remonstrated with by her friends, she repeated, "'If thine enemy hunger feed him; if he thirst give him water to drink.'" This house, which stood until 1848, was known far and wide as the Old Indian House.

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03 Aug 2005