Read The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America by John Putnam Demos Online

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In 1704 an Indian war party descended on a Massachusetts village, abducting a Puritan minister and his children. The minister was released, but his daughter chose to stay with her captors. Her extraordinary story is one of race, religion, and the conflict between two cultures....

Title : The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America
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ISBN : 9780679759614
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 316 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America Reviews

  • Karen
    2019-05-08 16:05

    As a historical novel, it is a fantastic book and a wonderful read. Unfortunately, it wasn’t billed as such, and as an historical text, there are some significant issues here. Most critically, Demos in places confuses the Mohawks involvement with what were actually Abenaki, and he also seems to have ignored the historiography that was emerging in the Native American field at that time (especially the New Indian History), that should have greatly impacted his interpretation (Richard White’s The Middle Ground, for example). Very minor, though annoying, Demos perpetuates the myth of the "borning room" (see pg.7) when no such designated space in homes ever existed (it’s one of those lovely tour guide myths, along with the idea that the shutters were installed specifically to repel Indian attacks, that just never seems to die.) Add in the frequent and opaque blending of history with conjecture, it is a text that can be problematic in the hands of an uncritical reader. It is a text that I would never feel comfortable citing for factual content in my own work, for fear of spreading misinformation. This is a work that a historian could only get away with publishing at the end of a well-established and respectable career - it never would (or should) have earned him tenure.To be fair, Demos certainly picked a challenge when he engaged this project, the sources concerning Eunice are scant. At its best, it is an amazing example of how a Historian can think extraordinarily creatively to tell a compelling story when few sources are available. If this book were to be used at all in the classroom, it could be an excellent resource to assign to upper level history students to show the potential benefits and hazards that can come from the careful caressing of sources.

  • John
    2019-05-17 18:01

    One of the most compelling and readable works of history I encountered all year. And I read a lot of history. This is a scholarly work, but it was written with kind of a fiction tone, and Demos uses a lot of speculation to get inside people's heads and really ponder their experiences. This does what all great works of history are supposed to do, it analyzes a time that seems somewhat incomprehensible to people today. Imagine, if you will (especially those of you who live in small New England towns, or have lived in one at some point) living in an era during which at any time men might emerge from the forest around your town and kill and/or kidnap you and your entire family. A time when you could go to your fields to pick corn and end up being force marched to Montreal and ransomed back to Massachusetts. This happened all the time! For decades! And people just had to live with it. This book is about the experiences of John Williams, a minister in Deerfield, Mass, who was abducted with his family. His 7 year old daughter was adopted into an Indian tribe (as a great many New England children were) and refused to return home. I recommend this to anyone really, anyone who wants a little break from outright fiction for a moment. I know I'm a history nerd but I don't see how a reader could not get at least a little caught up in this.

  • Josie
    2019-05-03 11:49

    I am not a history major, clearly. I only made it 50 pages into this book and couldn't imagine slogging my way through the rest. I love the "story" here, but Demos was clearly more focused on primary sources and fact...after fact...after fact... Minute details distracted from what could have been a fascinating telling of this incident. I don't need four pages of historical text (in ye olde americaine englysh no less) of what possessions each townsperson lost in the massacre, followed by a single paragraph about a 500km trek by the prisoners in the middle of winter. This book reminds me of several older history books I've tried to pick up over the years. Fascinating events, dulled by too much fact, not enough description. But again, for someone trained to enjoy that sort of thing, this might be a great book.

  • Bruce
    2019-05-02 17:42

    Dr. Demos sets the story of white captives in context. The taking of John Williams and his family, among others during a raid on Deerfield, Mass. by Indians allied to the French is the beginning of the 'story.' Eunice Williams, his daughter, was not returned to New England when others in the group were traded back for Frenchmen held captive in New England or ransomed. Eunice was adopted by an Indian family when she was 'captured.' Later she married an Indian and became completely acculturated to the Indian way of life and converted to Catholicism. She chose not to be 'redeemed.' Using Eunice and the Williams family situation as a spring board, Dr. Demos discusses the Indian way of life and that of the New Englanders. The impact of the various wars between the French and the British in North America on the situation is touched upon. What I learned is that Eunice Williams did visit her relatives in Massachusetts after her father died. Unfortunately, the women of the family did not visit her in her home situation. Perhaps they would have seen the differences in culture and the rights of women which could have created more discord in the Protestant patriarchy of New England.

  • Mscout
    2019-05-21 11:41

    John Demos is an historian of another age. He was trained during a time when historians were struggling to be recognized as more than mere stenographers of past events. As a result, narrative history was shoved aside in favor of a more (if not almost purely) analytical approach that stressed interpretation of the stories rather than the telling of them. This was unfortunate as he “had been drawn to history by the stories.” As the subtitle to this work suggests, however, he has come back to that love of story and expressed it through The Unredeemed Captive: A Story from Early America. Demos’ work tells the story of the Williams family. Theirs is a story that was central to the history of colonial America. Settled in Deerfield on the Massachusetts frontier, John Williams (d. 1729), respected Puritan pastor and community leader, and his family struggled to build a life on the edge of the vast American wilderness. They faced hardships both environmental and physical. The greatest of these occurred 28 February 1704, when the French directed a raid against the community of Deerfield. The raiding party included French troops as well as a great number of Indian allies. Two of Williams’ children were killed outright; four others were captured along with him and his wife. His wife, Eunice, was killed along the way, but the others all survived the arduous trek to Canada. Over the course of almost three years all were ‘redeemed’ or returned to Massachusetts, except for the youngest daughter, also named Eunice. She chose to stay and make her life with the Mohawk family that had adopted her.This book is ostensibly the story of the raid and capture, the redemption of John Williams and four of his children, and subsequent attempts to redeem Eunice. While focusing primarily on this one family, Demos managed also to tell the larger story of the early colonies. He used a wealth of primary sources, including letters, journals, public notices and legal records. In staying true to his narrative form, he weaves those into the story at times as if they were dialogue. This makes the story come alive in a way that reads much like decent fiction. Demos does not shy away from the analytical, however. He goes beyond what is merely recorded in the sources to interpret the larger picture of colonial Massachusetts. One of the most salient examples is the third chapter, his study of Williams’ writings during and immediately after his captivity. Demos goes beyond the text in front of him and interprets them through a contextual filter. In so doing, he gives a much more intimate portrayal of Williams, while at the same time widening the scope to show Williams as a product of his time and place.The second half of the book is taken up with Eunice’s life in Canada. After being adopted by a Catholic Mohawk family, she chose in turn to adopt their ways, language and religion. Eunice was baptized a Catholic (and rechristened Marguerite), much to the horror of her Puritan family that saw Catholicism as grievous sin. She married a Mohawk man and raised a family with him. John Williams never gave up his hope of redeeming her to her old family. Eunice never gave up her new family. In telling this part of the story, Demos relied on, admittedly scant, tribal records and personal papers. Yet he managed to recreate a realistic portrait of her community and family.Demos managed to achieve his goals of telling a story and doing so from a point of view not wholly European. Through the life of John Williams, he was able to describe a larger colonial story. Through Eunice, he told the story through the eyes of those facing colonization. Through the French officials in Montreal and Quebec, Demos was able to add the additional voice of those North of the border. Unredeemed Captive is at once a story highly personal and yet hugely representative of early America.

  • Jana
    2019-04-21 11:52

    I have much to learn! I thought Cotton Mather was a character in The Crucible (close, but no). And John Williams is a composer (yes, but in this case we're dealing with the Puritan Minister who became famous for the account of his experiences called THE REDEEMED CAPTIVE).This is a very well written, very detailed account of a massacre and capture of New England colonists by the French & Indians of "New France". Not really a spoiler, due to the name of the book, but most of the focus ends up on one girl, John's daughter, and her long, LONG captivity. Which becomes less about captivity, and more of a choice for her. I found it fascinating and I look forward to meeting the author in Vermont in a few weeks at Booktopia.I love how Booktopia books weave together. In this case, the Jesuits play a prominent role as the "evil popists" living to the north. Puritans have absolutely horrible things to say about Catholics! At last October's Booktopia we were with the 'Jesuits in Space' in THE SPARROW. In both cases they are the explorers of new lands.

  • Matt
    2019-05-01 14:51

    The first 2/3 of this non-fiction tale is quite interesting: in colonial New England, an English/protestant minister and his family are taken captive to Canada by Mohawk Indians who happen to be Catholic by way of French missionaries. The family is divided, but over time most of them are returned to New England in prisoner exchanges, except for the youngest daughter. She eventually assimilates and converts to Catholicism as her relatives fight for years after to redeem her from a "captivity" that she doesn't actually want to be freed from. The social and religious themes are intriguing, and the author employs every scrap of information he could find in historical documents to tell the story. The problem then? Nothing interesting happens for the last third of the book. Then everyone dies of old age.

  • Liz
    2019-05-13 11:00

    This well-written history narrative provides excellent insight into how an historian's mind works. It is a history book that tells a gripping story that reads like a detective novel.The Unredeemed Captive tells the story of Eunice Williams and her family. On the night of February 29, 1704, French-allied Native Americans raided the town of Deerfield, Massachusetts. The raid came early in Queen Anne's War (1702-1713), the second out of four wars waged between France and England for domination of North America. The raiders kidnapped Eunice Williams and many of her family members during the attack. In fact, the Native Americans went to Deerfield with orders from New France's governor to take Williams' father, Reverend John Williams, because he would fetch a high value in any prisoner exchange between New France and New England. Although the Governor of Massachusetts Bay arranged for the redemption of all of the Williams family members, the Native Americans had adopted 4-year-old Eunice and refused to part with her. As a result, Eunice became an adopted member of the Kahnawake Mohawk people. She grew up as both a Mohawk and as a French-speaking Catholic, a fate almost worse than death for her Puritan family.John Demos spends much of the work sorting out the knowns and unknowns of Eunice's life as a Kahnawake. The sparse documentary evidence of Eunice's life causes Demos to discuss theories or speculations about what Eunice's life as a Mohawk must have been like. He bases his theories and speculations on first-hand accounts of what the village looked like, how the Kahnawake lived and worked, and the Mohawks' process of captive adoption. Demos admits that much of this evidence comes from accounts biased with European prejudices. In sharing his thought process throughout The Unredeemed Captive, Demos shows how the mind of an historian works. Throughout the book Demos demonstrates how historians weigh evidence. He gives a lot of weight to evidence that specifically documents Eunice and notes how and why some supporting evidence such as letters between family members or the captive narratives of others do not offer reliable evidence.I thoroughly enjoyed this book and on the whole it is well researched. However, I find fault in Demos' incomplete research of the history of Albany, New York. Admittedly, I wrote my dissertation on the history of Albany. With that said, I have consulted many sources on the history of the city and I have yet to encounter the one that states that Albany's State Street was Staats Street as Demos claims. In fact, until just after the American Revolution, the Albanians called that street Jonkheer Straet. It became State Street in honor of the independence of the United States. In a book that was so well researched, I found this error galling; Albany played an important role in trying to redeem Eunice and yet it seemed like Demos opted not to spend time researching the history of the city. Instead he translated State into its Dutch "Staat" and called it a day. However, this is the one fault I found with this book.

  • Mary Lou
    2019-04-22 13:09

    Social history suggested by my son, something he’d read for a course - liked the symmetry of the many beginnings/many endings structure - also liked the play on words in the title, ‘unredeemed’ meaning un-ransomed, unrepentant, and un’saved’ in terms of religious choice/belief. In 1704 Eunice Williams was about seven years old, part of a prominent Puritan clerical family living in Deerfield, Mass. when the community was attacked by French and Indians who killed many of the inhabitants and carried off many more as captives, Eunice and much of her family being among them. Her mother and an infant died on the arduous trip to Montreal. Over the years her father and brothers were ransomed (redeemed) and returned. Eunice remained, at first as a captive, and later by choice with her Mohawk family. Contact with her was established and she and her Indian family made several visits to Deerfield, but as she had forgotten and never re-learned English, communication was through translators, and it's a frustration for the reader that nothing in Eunice’s voice survives. Fascinating that the author was able to unearth so much information about one person who left no written record of herself.

  • Megan
    2019-04-27 13:52

    I really enjoyed this book. It tells the story of a New England family who was captured by Native Americans in the Deerfield Raid, which took place approximately in 1704. The daughter, Eunice, never did return to her family, she had multiple opportunities, but she chose to remain with the Native Americans. This book shows the attitudes the colonists had towards the Indians, the Indian captives, Catholics, the French, the Indian captives, etc, that chose to stay, etc. This book I think would be interesting to many people who just enjoy History, but are not into a lot of theory. He tells the story, there is some analysis, etc, but the story of this family, and of the country at that time is a major part of this book. His writing style to a certain extent annoyed me because he was handing me his interpretations of the passages, but overall his writing style was interesting. He quotes a lot of passages from the writings of the family and people of that time including Cotton Mather, and Samuel Sewell, Samuel Sewell was a major figure in the Salem Witchcraft Trials.

  • Katherine Addison
    2019-04-27 14:02

    One of the things The Unredeemed Captive cemented for me is that my interest is in the phenomenon of Indian captivity, not the captivity narratives themselves. As conditions of their production, these narratives are written by Puritans who have rejected the alien culture (it's clear in The Unredeemed Captive just how alien the culture of the Kahnawake Indians(1) was to the early eighteenth century Puritans they captured, and that, at least, I suspect generalizes across the experiences of Puritans taken captive by other tribes) they have been exposed to and as such, they are invested in demonizing Indians and extolling the virtues of Puritans and Puritan culture. Captivity narratives, in other words, are all about reinscribing the boundaries between cultures and reinscribing the hierarchical and moral judgments the Puritans made about cultures other than their own, and I find this project deeply, deeply unsympathetic. (Yes, this is my own twenty-first century hierarchical and moral judgment about a culture other than my own. But honestly. The Puritans just infuriate me and nowhere more so than in their conviction of their own rightness. Puritanism is a strange mixture of self-righteousness and self-condemnation, and both of these characteristics make it particularly blind to the possibility of other cultures having anything valuable to offer.)This book is also, I think, an experiment, born out of John Demos's desire to rehabilitate narrative history. As he says in the first line of the book, "Most of all, I wanted to tell a story." By which he does not mean he wants to write a novel. He wants to tell a story--in this case, the story of Eunice Williams, later named Marguerite, A'ongote, and Gannenstenhawi, who was captured by the Kahnawake Indians at the age of seven and who chose to remain with them all her life, despite the quite extraordinary efforts of her family, birth culture, and even the government of Massachusetts to "redeem" her. (The title of the book is a play on The Captive Redeemed, her father John Williams' account of his own captivity.)In fact, the story Demos tells is the story of the failure to "redeem" her, as his principal primary sources are the writings of her father and of her brother Stephen. He does his best to reconstruct the other side, but as a historian rather than a novelist, he is constrained by the circumstances of evidentiary survival. Not surprisingly, the two Puritan men (both ministers and therefore of high status in their society) both wrote more and had more of their writing preserved than either Puritan women or Indians of either sex. Only one document ascribed to Eunice(2) remains, a letter to her brother, and since she could neither read, write, nor speak English as an adult, it is an intensely mediated document--and the fact that it is banal and personally unrevealing is really not surprising. Eunice Williams remains an absence at the center of the narrative.There are several things I wish Demos had done more explicitly. One is to address the issue of the historical record, what it means that we have one letter from Eunice and four thousand pages of typescript of her brother Stephen's diary. Another is to talk at greater length and with great explicitness about the differences between Puritan and Kahnawake culture. (He points out, for instance, that while male captives would generally go to any lengths to return to New England, female captives were overwhelmingly likely to stay and become Kahnawake, and to stay despite the fervent appeals of their (male) kinfolk. And he addresses the surface issues of why that might be so. But he doesn't dig into it the way I wish he would have.) And the third is to stop and explicitly deconstruct the idea of "captivity." Because it's quite clear from what he writes that "captivity" is the wrong word. Eunice/Gannenstehawi refused to leave. She is adopted by the Kahnawake, converts to Catholicism, marries a Kahnawake man, lives and dies in Kahnawake, despite visits to Massachusetts and entreaties, blandishments, and actual bribes to remain. The fact that her (male) relatives and the rest of her birth culture persisted in framing and describing the experience as "captivity" is in itself a matter that cries out for careful exegesis.In other words, I suppose, while I appreciate Demos' desire and efforts to tell a story, I would have liked those efforts to be balanced by equal efforts to unpack and unpick the terms of the story he wants to tell.---(1)Kahnawake was a settlement of converted Catholic Indians near to Montréal. They were mostly Iroquois, and their culture reflected a hybridization of Iroquois tradition and French influence.(2)It's difficult to know how to refer to her. Demos calls her "Eunice" throughout, as her family did. Presumably, as an adult, she used either Marguerite (her French Catholic baptismal name) or Gannenstehawi (the name bestowed upon her as an adult Kahnawake), but which? Or both? And this letter to her brother is in fact signed, "Eunice Williams."Her husband seems also to have had a shifting plethora of names; Demos refers to him as Arosen, (one of) his name(s) as an adult Kahnawake, rather than François Xavier, his French names. He was Indian by birth--but he wasn't native to Kahnawake any more than Eunice/Marguerite/Gannenstehawi was, and presumably Arosen was bestowed upon him as an adult just as Gannenstehawi was bestowed on her. That is, it would clearly be wrong to refer to him as François, but is it right to refer to her as Eunice?It's a thorny issue, and I don't actually have a better answer than the one which Demos chose.

  • Hafsa
    2019-05-01 13:53

    Facinating use of the imagination in retelling history. As a narrator of history and a scholar who is faced with critical gaps in the historical record as pertains to his subject, Demos deploys his own imagination when discussing how the various members in the family felt at different points in the narrative by critically examining their letters, the historical context around that time period, and the silences in their writings. The book is scholarly, but also fictional, which is what makes is compelling.One of the issues this book brought up for my history course was Demos's fixation with viewing Eunice Williams as Eunice throughout the story, despite the fact that she herself discarded that identity and had adopted a new one (and a new name). It is almost as if he was still trying to hold on to a European part of her that she did not relate to anymore.

  • London Mabel
    2019-05-16 13:53

    Most reviews say this book is either super interesting, or way too detailed. It's both. Demos takes a story that could be covered a long magazine article and stretches it out into a book. But if you're interested in studying either New England or Kahnawake in the 17 and 18th centuries, then Demos' too-much-detail is great.He quotes extensively from the sources, and then repeats in his own words what was just said, and then imagines and extrapolates on the material. The repeating and extrapolating was sometimes too much, but having all those original sources brought into one book was fantastic. I was interested in learning about Kahnawake, and he has several chapters just describing the culture and daily life of the settlement. SO interesting.

  • Leann
    2019-05-20 09:55

    You gotta hand it to the author -- he did his research. This book contains information from numerous primary sources, and that is where the strengths of this book lie. The author delves off into trying to fill in the blanks left us by the primary sources, but that's not what he's good at. I found some of his "imaginings" of what happened to be quite different from what I imagined given the evidence he had presented. But overall, it was a fascinating look at life in the late 1600s to early 1700s, and at what happened to a family torn apart by both captivity and the deep seated differences between catholics and protestants.

  • Kathy
    2019-05-13 13:43

    I enjoyed this heavily-researched book about a 7-year-old girl and her family who were captured by Indians in 1704 from their home in Deerfield, MA. Everyone in the family but young Eunice either died or was eventually returned to their home but she chose to stay with the tribe, marry an Indian man and live there for the rest of her life. It's astonishing how the author put together an entire book from the meager facts available about Eunice; much of the material revolved around the conflicts between French Canada and British New England. If you would enjoy reading detailed history about this period, this is the book for you!

  • Nisha
    2019-05-18 10:00

    One of my favorite historical book. I read it for two different classes and enjoyed it during both times. It's nice to read because while it give factual information, with some layers of speculation, it still runs the course of the story of the 'Unredeeemed captive', "Eunice".It's really fascinating to read the meager facts about the life of this woman and the well documented attempts of her family to bring her back.

  • Helen Major
    2019-04-26 16:58

    This is a vitally important subject in view of the appalling lack of awareness of our country's history of both the native peoples and the European peoples interactions.

  • Kate
    2019-05-05 16:51

    WELL. That took a while.The Unredeemed Captive is well-written and painstakingly researched. It tends toward the scholarly side of historical writing, which slows down the narrative. American history isn't my bag, and combined with the scholarly bent of the book, I found myself nodding off a lot; this isn't to be taken as a criticism of Demos or the story, though. This is a well-done book about a skipped-over piece of American history and, if you LIKE American history and can handle scholarly writing, I recommend you check it out. Also, Demos NAILED the ending. Absolutely nailed it. All writers of historical nonfiction ought to read this book just to see how well he ended it. I almost clapped, out loud and in real life.

  • Dave
    2019-05-19 14:07

    The subject is very intriguing: an English girl captured by the French supporting Indians ultimately refuses to return to her home and family. The excessive quotation of single words and short phrases made it rather ponderous reading. The book is extremely detailed in its description and documentation of this particular event which makes it better as a reference or for readers who want to go that deep.

  • Marita
    2019-05-15 14:55

    Utterly fascinating read. Written not quite like a novel but not like any other historical non-fiction book I’ve ever read either. It was as though the story was unfolding right before my eyes in real time. This is the intimate story not only of a family, but of a community and the scars of a terrifying time in history that branded them and their ancestors for the rest of their lives.

  • Jim
    2019-04-23 17:10

    I tried to like this book. It just didn't work out. I think that the facts, upon facts, may not always be 'the facts'. I do admit that I gave up 50-60 pages through, and I really hate to give up on anything, especially historical, but not a scholar. The premise I thought was good, I just couldn't carry on to find the redeemed value.

  • Shreya
    2019-05-10 09:46

    History told in story form: a good proposition, but this is exactly what I would expect it to be. Dry, confusingly worded at times, repetitive at others.

  • Thady
    2019-05-22 15:00

    Great insight into life and attitudes in early Americal settlements and a great call for tolerance and acceptance at the end. Highly recommended

  • Amy
    2019-05-15 14:10

    I had originally got this under the assumption it was fiction, but having an interest in First Nations/Native American and captive histories, I read through it. I did enjoy this book, and were is an option I would have actually given it more of a 3.5.This review contains historical information involved in the book, I don't consider it a 'spoiler' as such.This book centres around the Williams family and their initial capture and later redemption through ransom from the Mohawk tribe, following the 1704 attack on the Deerfield settlement in Mass. 100 men, women and children were taken trough the wilderness in winter to outside of Montreal, Canada. The Native Americans were prepared, stopping before the attack to lay in food and 20 moose carcasses under the snow, brining moccasins and even clothing of sizes and snowshoes, and later being met by more of their fellows with sleds. Though the Rev. Williams, possibly the main reason the village was ransacked, being well connected to several highly ranked Boston Mass. ministers through both his own family and that of his wife. He, and three of his sons were quickly ransomed, his young daughter Eunice, was taken and 'held for many years in captivity'. So most of the story encompassing the hope of her ransom and return to her Deerfeild family. Though when the Native Americans 'would rather part with their own hearts that with the child' it proves to be a long and challenging journey.Taken as a child, Eunice was adopted by her Native American master, and was baptized as a Catholic (to the horror of her Puritan family) and given a Mohawk name. She grew up speaking Mohawk and lost all her English, becoming 'as the Natives'. While at first, the denial of her return came from Indian family, it later came from Eunice herself.The book takes its information the writings and diaries of Rev. Williams and later those of his son, as well as letters and records of the time. Though presented in a clear way, though heavily peppered with the verbatim 'ye olde englesh' the book is fairly easily read (though I felt the last chapter tried to ratchet up the language some). Though it may take a few paragraphs to adjust to the spelling and word usage of the 1700s, it soon becomes the norm as it were, and the first hand view of both captivity and the views on, not only the loss of family, but the horrors of the 'Popish faith' combined with those life styles of Native Americans prove very interesting. The book focus mostly on those Williams who have been ransomed, with occasional references to Eunice, and talks mostly about the life of those Settlers, where I hoped there would have been more insight on teh day to day life and traditions of the captors tribe, though this changes slightly, it still came across to me as a rather one-sided history. I also found that the constant speculation on behalf of the author could have been done with out, as it often subtracted from the information he presented. The author is obvioulsy passionate and well read on the subject, and the history moves quickly and smoothly along through most of the novel, though it does slow in places, mostly those where there are pages quoted from several sermons and speeches given by Rev. Williams and then having them broken down and interpreted. There were definetly places that I skimmed through, but an interesting read for any looking into the mindset of Puritans in the 1700s, their views on the world and religion around them.

  • Richard Moss
    2019-04-30 11:44

    I picked this up second hand, as I find the assimilation of captured white settlers into Native American tribes fascinating.From John Ford's The Searchers to Philipp Meyer's The Son, they have been dealt with in fiction, but the Unredeemed Captive deals with a real-life case.In the early 18th Century, church minister John Williams and his family are captured when their Massachusetts town is attacked. Some die, some are "redeemed" (released), but daughter Eunice remains with her captors.But more than that, she remains with them willingly - marrying and integrating into the tribe, much to the distress of her surviving family.There is some fascinating detail in this account. I wasn't aware of how Native Americans were used by both French Canada and the English colonies as surrogates in cross-border warfare, or how significant numbers of natives (and Eunice) converted to Catholicism.There is much in here then about the blending of identities - and the uneasy accommodation that existed between settlers and "Indians".There is a poignancy also in capturing a moment before the mass extermination and destruction of the Native Americans and their ways of life had truly taken hold.But be warned - the details of Eunice's new life are scarce - she herself never left any account of her experiences.And that is both this book's strength and weakness. On the one hand the sparsity of facts builds up the air of mystery, and allows the author to speculate a little. But it also leaves much unanswered.At times I found John Demos's poring over the detail of the documentary evidence that does exist slightly too exhaustive. This is micro-history in the extreme.He also insists on using much of the original idiom of the 18th Century settlers - ye instead of the etc etc, which I found slowed me down and were unnecessary. It would not have diminished the historical rigour of the book one bit to make those more accessible to the 21st Century reader.But by delving into detail, Demos does immerse you in the world of 18th Century colonial America and opened my eyes to elements that had passed me by. The tantalising moments when settlers connect with the Native Americans and "unredeemed captive" Eunice are particularly poignant, as the divide between two different cultures fractures but never quite collapses.

  • Lauren Hopkins
    2019-05-16 16:45

    Interesting account of the Williams family of Deerfield, who were captured during the massacre in 1704 and spent much of their lives trying to reunite. The book is at its core about the history of captives being forced to live among "savages" and how their return to "civilization" could "redeem" them. The Williams family is just one of many New England families dealing with a problem like this, but their case is unique - and the perfect case for this book - because most of the family was released, easily assimilated back into New England life, and became "redeemed" in the eyes of "true Christians." A young daughter, however, was captured at six or seven and forced to spend her childhood in French Canada with an Indian tribe. The child, Eunice, quickly forgets the English language and customs, and by the time her family can reunite with her, she refuses to return, has converted to Catholicism, and marries an Indian man. It's incredibly interesting because despite being given the opportunity to leave, it's ultimately her decision to stay, but her father, siblings, and other relatives - as evidenced in letters and diaries saved over the years - can't stand thinking of her being "trapped" in this "savage" lifestyle, mentioning time and again how they literally can't think of anything worse. So Eunice is the "unredeemed captive" and thus symbolizes the biggest fears of New England Christians at the time. The story is told through the Williams family and their efforts to both rebuild after the massacre and to later try to bring Eunice home, but woven through the family's story is the history of the conflict between Indians/French Catholics and New England Christians in the 18th century, as is the debate around what can be considered "savage" and what can be considered "civilized." Not the most thrilling of reads, but it goes pretty quickly...the Williams story is what makes it work, otherwise it'd just be a dry volume of facts.

  • Kallie
    2019-04-22 11:41

    This has everything I want in a history/cultural study: great detail, a complete inclusion of cultural context, a voice that is compelling but never more important than the subject matter -- how violence, captivity, assimilation contributed to a much more mixed American culture than is usually discussed in American history. I am familiar with the topic as it revolves around peoples of the Southwest -- a diverse mix of Spanish European and many indigenous tribes from Mexico to p.d. Colorado. There are a few books on the topic, on the cultural mix that probably contributed to peaceful relations and acceptance (mostly; not totally of course) between indigenous and European people. This was not the case in New England. The Puritan sensibility (which haunts us to this day) could not reconcile its idea of redemption with captives still held in 'savage' lands, and intermarriage was especially difficult to bear. It's a funny thing, though. According to Puritan or Calvinist (or both) teachings, the soul's fate was decided by god, before birth. You were either redeemed or going to hell, and there was nothing you could do to change that. So why all the agonizing about redemption one had absolutely no control over? Anyway. Demos book takes the reader into that world as few history books do. He does not attempt to inhabit these people, but reports on what they experienced, through every bit of evidence he can muster, and also speculates about their thoughts/feelings. For example, how must a captive child feel when her father (another captive) is released, but comes to tell her he can't take her home with him? What effect will that have on her ties to home? Demos poses excellent if speculative questions and conclusions on what is surely one of the most traumatic macro historic experiences humans have gone through. As with any such excellent book, he leaves the reader with as many questions as answers.

  • Annie
    2019-04-27 09:52

    In 2012 a professor assigned this book to me and, for unrelated reasons, I dropped the class. However, I kept the book and here I am 4 years later, finally finished with it. Demos detailed treatment of a famous captive narrative is an excellent example of microhistory, just as the syllabus that told me to read it promised. As an archival technician, I was really impressed with his use of primary sources. Must have taken forever! John Demos used the diaries and letters of the Williams family extensively to flesh out the captivity of Eunice Williams. As a little girl she and most of her family were captured by the French and some of their Iroquois allies and taken to Canada. Most of the family was repatriated, but Eunice stayed and eventually chose to stay. She married a fellow citizen of Kahnawake and lived her considerably long life there. Although Demos had little to go on, a few mentions of Eunice in the diaries of her brother Stephen, and the letters of the various people who tried to redeem her, he managed to write a fully engaging 250 page book. He managed this by connecting this story of the Williams family to the world at large. How did Kahnawake develop? What might it have been like to live there? And what about Deerfield, Massachusetts, where the Williams family originated? How did their lives intersect with the various wars of the 18th century and the Great Awakening in New England? All questions were addressed with equal care and attention to detail and always connected back to the gripping tale of Eunice Williams who chose, in no uncertain terms, to never be "redeemed." While not the best thing I've read all summer, I've long meant to read it and am pleased with it. It fits with my current interest of French colonization of North America and left me eager to learn more about colonial Quebec, and Kahnawake specifically.

  • Caroline
    2019-05-09 15:00

    Impeccable scholarship, vital insights into culture conflicts of the past, and present. This wonderful book is the best kind of popular history: uncompromising in the standards of its scholarship, yet accessible and fascinating to a broad, non-academic audience of readers interested in the nature of cultural identity, and clashing/co-existing societies. It tells the story of one family forcibly ruptured into two worlds, when an Indian raid carries off family members, including a seven-year-old daughter so thoroughly embedded in her new, Indian (sorry; the tribe are not native Americans but a Canadian offshoot of various native groups) world that by the time her "redemption" is possible, she no longer wishes to return to the world of her birth. Insights, and ironies abound. (Her Puritan family is more distressed at her succumbing to "Popery" than to nativism.) The author meticulously collates, and limits himself to, documented historical data, yet does not hesitate to draw broader, thoughtful conclusions, always delineating the border between provable fact and well-founded projection. This is a work of both socio-psychological depth, and tremendous historic integrity. Whether you come to the book for interesting historical fact, or for deep insight into the nature of cultural intersections and conflicts, you will be well rewarded.

  • Vickie
    2019-05-02 16:06

    I just happened upon this book and am so glad I did. I was drawn to it instantly because I have an ancestor who, like Eunice Williams, was captured by Native Americans, married into the tribe, bore children, and when given a chance to return to her birth family, refused. I thought our family story was unusual, but it turns out that such kidnappings and subsequent complete integration into tribes was common. There are many accounts of such kidnappings, the most famous of which is probably the case of Eunice Williams. I learned so much from this book. The French and Indian wars were always vague in my mind. Author John Demos brought the time period to life. As it is extremely well-documented and very detailed non-fiction, this book won't be for everybody, but for those interested in early Canadian and American history, including Native American and Puritan cultures, it's a must-read.Caveat: There are a lot of gruesome descriptions. It's sad and disturbing finding yet more evidence about how cruel humans can be.