Decennium Luctuosum: An History of Remarkable Occurrences in the Long War

A Notable Exploit

Cotton Mather

Article XXV. 

A Notable Exploit; wherein Dux Fcemina Fadi ("A Woman Guides the Venture")

On March 15, 1697, the Salvages made a Descent upon the 
Skirts of Haverhill, Murdering and Captivating about Thirty- 
Nine Persons, and Burning about Half a Dozen Houses. In 
this Broil, one Hannah Dustan, having lain in about a Week, 
attended with her Nurse, Mary Neff, a Widow, a Body of 
Terrible Indians drew near unto the House, where she lay, 
with Designs to carry on their Bloody Devastations. Her 
Husband hastened from his Employments abroad, unto the 
Relief of his Distressed Family; and first bidding Seven of his 
Eight children (which were from Two to Seventeen years of 
Age) to get away as fast as they could, unto some Garrison in 
the Town, he went in, to inform his Wife of the horrible Dis- 
tress come upon them. E'er she could get up, the fierce Indians 
were got so near, that utterly despairing to do her any Service, 
he ran out after his Children; Resolving that on the Horse, 
which he had with him, he would Ride away with That which 
he should in this Extremity find his Affections to pitch most 
upon, and leave the Rest unto the care of the Divine Providence. 
He overtook his Children about Forty Rod from his Door; but 
then, such was the Agony of his Parental Affections, that he 
found it impossible for him to Distinguish any one of them 
from the rest; wherefore he took up a Courageous Resolution 
to Live and dy with them all. A party of Indians came up 
with him; and now, though they Fired at him, and he Fired 
at them, yet he manfully kept at the Reer of his Little Army of 
Unarmed Children, while they Marched off, with the pace of 
a Child of Five years old ; until, by the Singular Providence of 
God, he arrived safe with them all, unto a place of Safety, 
about a Mile or two from his House. But his House must in 
the mean Time have more dismal Tragedies acted at it. The 
Nurse trying to Escape, with the New-born Infant, fell into 
the Hands of the Formidable Salvages; and those furious 
Tawnies coming into the House, bid poor Dustan to Rise 
Immediately. Full of Astonishment, she did so; and sitting 
down in the Chimney with an Heart full of most fearful Ex- 
pectation, she saw the Raging Dragons riffle all that they 
could carry away, and set the House on Fire. About Nine- 
teen or Twenty Indians now led these away, with about Half 
a Score other English Captives; but e'er they had gone many 
Steps, they dash'd out the Brains of the Infant, against a Tree; 
and several of the other Captives, as they began to Tire in the 
sad Journey, were soon sent unto their Long Home; the Sal- 
vages would presently bury their Hatchets in their Brains, 
and leave their Carcases on the Ground for Birds and Beasts 
to feed upon. However, Dustan (with her Nurse), notwith- 
standing her present Condition, Travelled that Night, about a 
Dozen MUes, and then kept up with their New Masters in a 
long Travel of an Hundred and Fifty Miles, more or less, 
within a few Days Ensuing, without any sensible Damage, in 
their Health, from the Hardships of their Travel, their Lodging, 
their Diet, and their many other Difficulties. 

These Two poor Women were now in the Hands of those, 
whose Tender Mercies are Cruelties; but the Good God, who 
hath all Hearts in His own Hands, heard the Sighs of these 
Prisoners, and gave them to find unexpected Favour from the 
Master, who laid claim unto them. That Indian Family con- 
sisted of Twelve Persons; Two Stout men. Three Women, and 
Seven Children ; and for the Shame of many an English Family, 
that has the Character of Prayerless upon it, I must now Pub- 
lish what these poor Women assure me: 'Tis this; In Obedi- 
ence to the Instructions which the French have given them, 
they would have Prayers in their Family, no less than Thrice 
Every Day; in the Morning, at Noon, and in the Evening; 
nor would they ordinarily let their Children Eat or Sleep, 
without first saying their Prayers. Indeed these Idolaters 
were like the rest of their whiter Brethren, Persecutors; and 
would not endure, that these poor Women should Retire to 
their English Prayers, if they could hinder them. Neverthe- 
less, the poor Women had nothing but fervent Prayers, to make 
their Lives Comfortable, or Tolerable; and by being daily 
sent out, upon Business, they had Opportunities together and 
asunder, to do like another Hannah, in Pouring out their Souls 
before the Lord: Nor did their praying Friends among our 
selves, forbear to Pour out Supplications for them. Now, 
they could not observe it without some wonder, that their 
Indian Master, sometimes, when he saw them Dejected, would 
say unto them, "What need you Trouble your self? If your 
God will have you delivered, you shall be so!" And it seems, 
our God would have it so to be. This Indian Family was now 
Travelling with these Two Captive Women, (and an English 
youth, taken from Worcester, a year and half before,) unto a 
Rendezvouz of Salvages, which they call, a Town, some where 
beyond Penacook; and they still told these poor Women, that 
when they came to this Town, they must be Stript, and 
Scourg'd, and run the Gantlet through the whole Army of 
Indians. They said, This was the Fashion, when the Cap- 
tives first came to a Town ; and they derided some of the Faint- 
hearted English, which, they said, fainted and swoon'd away 
under the Torments of this Discipline. But on April 30, While 
they were yet, it may be, about an Hundred and Fifty Miles 
from the Indian Town, a little before Break of Day, when the 
whole Crew was in a Dead Sleep; (Reader, see if it prove not 
So !) one of these Women took up a Resolution, to imitate the 
Action of Jael upon Sisera;^ and being where she had not 
her own Life secured by any Law unto her, she thought she 
was not Forbidden by any Law to take away the Life of the 
Murderers, by whom her Child had been butchered. She 
heartened the Nurse, and the Youth, to assist her in this En- 
terprize; and all furnishing themselves with Hatchets for the 
purpose, they struck such Home Blows, upon the Heads of 
their Sleeping Oppressors, that e'er they could any of them 
Struggle into any Effectual Resistance, at the Feet of these 
poor Prisoners, they how^d, they fell, they lay down : at their 
feet they bowed, they fell; where they bowed, there they fell 
down Dead} Only one Squaw escaped sorely wounded 
from them, in the Dark; and one Boy, whom they Reserved 
Asleep, intending to bring him away with them, suddenly 
wak'd, and skuttled away from this Desolation. But cutting 
off the Scalps of the Ten Wretches, they came off, and Received 
Fifty Pounds from the General Assembly of the Province, as a 
Recompence of their Action; besides which they Received 
many presents of Congratulation from their more private 
Friends; but none gave 'em a greater Tast of Bounty than 
Colonel Nicholson, the Governour of Maryland,^ who hear- 
ing of their Action, sent 'em a very generous Token of his 
Favour.

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