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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Story of Her Captivity, Sufferings and Restoration

By Mary Rowlandson (c. 1635–1711)

[Born in Mass., about 1636. Wife of the Rev. Joseph Rowlandson. Made captive by the Indians at the Destruction of Lancaster, Mass., Feb. 21, 1676. Narrative of the Captivity and Restouration of Mrs. Mary Roulandson. 1682.]


ON the 10th of February, 1675 [O. S.], came the Indians with great numbers upon Lancaster: their first coming was about sun-rising; hearing the noise of some guns we looked out; several houses were burning, and the smoke ascending to heaven. There were five persons taken in one house, the father and mother and a suckling child they knocked on the head, the other two they took and carried away alive. There were two others, who, being out of their garrison upon occasion, were set upon, one was knocked on the head, the other escaped. Another there was who, running along, was shot and wounded, and fell down; he begged of them his life, promising them money (as they told me), but they would not hearken to him, but knocked him on the head, stripped him naked, and split open his bowels. Another seeing many of the Indians about his barn ventured and went out, but was quickly shot down. There were three others belonging to the same garrison who were killed; the Indians, getting up upon the roof of the barn, had advantage to shoot down upon them over their fortification. Thus these murtherous wretches went on burning and destroying all before them.

At length they came and beset our house, and quickly it was the dolefulest day that ever mine eyes saw. The house stood upon the edge of a hill; some of the Indians got behind the hill, others into the barn, and others behind anything that would shelter them; from all which places they shot against the house, so that the bullets seemed to fly like hail, and quickly they wounded one man among us, then another, then a third. About two hours (according to my observation in that amazing time) they had been about the house before they prevailed to fire it, (which they did with flax and hemp which they brought out of the barn, and there being no defence about the house, only two flankers at two opposite corners, and one of them not finished) they fired it once, and one ventured out and quenched it, but they quickly fired it again, and that took. Now is the dreadful hour come that I have often heard of (in time of the war, as it was the case of others) but now mine eyes see it. Some in our house were fighting for their lives, others wallowing in blood, the house on fire over our heads, and the bloody heathen ready to knock us on the head if we stirred out. Now might we hear mothers and children crying out for themselves and one another, Lord, what shall we do! Then I took my children (and one of my sisters hers) to go forth and leave the house: but, as soon as we came to the door and appeared, the Indians shot so thick that the bullets rattled against the house as if one had taken a handful of stones and threw them, so that we were forced to give back. We had six stout dogs belonging to our garrison, but none of them would stir, though at another time if an Indian had come to the door, they were ready to fly upon him and tear him down. The Lord hereby would make us the more to acknowledge his hand, and to see that our help is always in him. But out we must go, the fire increasing, and coming along behind us roaring, and the Indians gaping before us with their guns, spears, and hatchets to devour us. No sooner were we out of the house, but my brother-in-law (being before wounded in defending the house, in or near the throat) fell down dead, whereat the Indians scornfully shouted and hallowed, and were presently upon him, stripping off his clothes. The bullets flying thick, one went through my side, and the same (as would seem) through the bowels and hand of my poor child in my arms. One of my elder sister’s children (named William) had then his leg broke, which the Indians perceiving they knocked him on the head. Thus were we butchered by those merciless heathens, standing amazed, with the blood running down to our heels. My eldest sister being yet in the house, and seeing those woful sights, the infidels hauling mothers one way and children another, and some wallowing in their blood; and her eldest son telling her that her son William was dead, and myself was wounded, she said, “and Lord, let me die with them;” which was no sooner said, but she was struck with a bullet, and fell down dead over the threshold. I hope she is reaping the fruit of her good labors, being faithful to the service of God in her place….

Oh! the doleful sight that now was to behold at this house! Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he has made in the earth. Of thirty-seven persons who were in this one house, none escaped either present death, or a bitter captivity, save only one, who might say as in Job i. 15: “And I only am escaped alone to tell the news.” There were twelve killed, some shot, some stabbed with their spears, some knocked down with their hatchets. When we are in prosperity, Oh the little that we think of such dreadful sights, to see our dear friends and relations lie bleeding out their heart’s-blood upon the ground. There was one who was chopped in the head with a hatchet, and stripped naked, and yet was crawling up and down. It was a solemn sight to see so many Christians lying in their blood, some here and some there, like a company of sheep torn by wolves. All of them stripped naked by a company of hell-hounds, roaring, singing, ranting, and insulting, as if they would have torn our very hearts out; yet the Lord, by his almighty power, preserved a number of us from death, for there were twenty-four of us taken alive and carried captive.

I had often before this said, that if the Indians should come, I should choose rather to be killed by them than taken alive, but when it came to the trial, my mind changed; their glittering weapons so daunted my spirit, that I chose rather to go along with those (as I may say) ravenous bears, than that moment to end my days. And that I may the better declare what happened to me during that grievous captivity, I shall particularly speak of the several Removes we had up and down the wilderness.


Now away we must go with those barbarous creatures, with our bodies wounded and bleeding, and our hearts no less than our bodies. About a mile we went that night, up upon a hill, within sight of the town, where we intended to lodge. There was hard by a vacant house (deserted by the English before, for fear of the Indians); I asked them whether I might not lodge in the house that night? to which they answered, “What, will you love Englishmen still?” This was the dolefulest night that ever my eyes saw. Oh, the roaring and singing, and dancing, and yelling of those black creatures in the night, which made the place a lively resemblance of hell. And miserable was the waste that was there made, of horses, cattle, sheep, swine, calves, lambs, roasting pigs, and fowls (which they had plundered in the town), some roasting, some lying and burning, and some boiling, to feed our merciless enemies; who were joyful enough, though we were disconsolate. To add to the dolefulness of the former day, and the dismalness of the present night, my thoughts ran upon my losses and sad, bereaved condition. All was gone, my husband gone (at least separated from me, he being in the Bay; and to add to my grief, the Indians told me they would kill him as he came homeward), my children gone, my relations and friends gone, our house and home, and all our comforts within door and without, all was gone (except my life), and I knew not but the next moment that might go too.

There remained nothing to me but one poor, wounded babe, and it seemed at present worse than death, that it was in such a pitiful condition, bespeaking compassion, and I had no refreshing for it, nor suitable things to revive it. Little do many think, what is the savageness and brutishness of this barbarous enemy, those even that seem to profess more than others among them, when the English have fallen into their hands….


But now (the next morning) I must turn my back upon the town, and travel with them into the vast and desolate wilderness, I know not whither. It is not my tongue or pen can express the sorrows of my heart, and bitterness of my spirit, that I had at this departure; but God was with me in a wonderful manner, carrying me along and bearing up my spirit, that it did not quite fail. One of the Indians carried my poor wounded babe upon a horse; it went moaning all along: “I shall die, I shall die.” I went on foot after it, with sorrow that cannot be expressed. At length I took it off the horse, and carried it in my arms, till my strength failed and I fell down with it. Then they set me upon a horse with my wounded child in my lap, and there being no furniture on the horse’s back, as we were going down a steep hill, we both fell over the horse’s head, at which they, like inhuman creatures, laughed, and rejoiced to see it, though I thought we should there have ended our days, overcome with so many difficulties. But the Lord renewed my strength still, and carried me along, that I might see more of his power, yea so much that I could never have thought of, had I not experienced it.

After this it quickly began to snow, and when night came on they stopped: and now down I must sit in the snow by a little fire, and a few boughs behind me, with my sick child in my lap and calling much for water, being now (through the wound) fallen into a violent fever. My own wound also growing so stiff that I could scarce sit down or rise up, yet so it must be, that I must sit all this cold winter night, upon the cold snowy ground, with my sick child in my arms, looking that every hour would be the last of its life; and having no Christian friend near me, either to comfort or help me. Oh, I may see the wonderful power of God, that my spirit did not utterly sink under my affliction; still the Lord upheld me with his gracious and merciful spirit, and we were both alive to see the light of the next morning….


On the morrow morning we must go over Connecticut river to meet with King Philip; two canoes full they had carried over, the next turn myself was to go; but as my foot was upon the canoe to step in, there was a sudden out-cry among them, and I must step back; and instead of going over the river, I must go four or five miles up the river farther northward. Some of the Indians ran one way, and some another. The cause of this rout was, as I thought, their espying some English scouts who were thereabouts. In this travel up the river, about noon the company made a stop and sat down, some to eat and others to rest them. As I sat amongst them, musing on things past, my son Joseph unexpectedly came to me. We asked of each other’s welfare, bemoaning our doleful condition and the change that had come upon us. We had husband and father, and children and sisters, and friends and relations, and house and home, and many comforts of this life; but now we might say as Job, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” I asked him whether he would read? he told me he earnestly desired it I gave him my Bible, and he lighted upon that comfortable scripture, Psalm cxviii. 17, 18: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord: The Lord hath chastened me sore, yet he hath not given me over unto death.” Look here, mother (says he), did you read this? And here I may take occasion to mention one principal ground of my setting forth these lines, even as the Psalmist says, to declare the works of the Lord, and his wonderful power in carying us along, preserving us in the wilderness while under the enemy’s hand, and returning of us in safety again; and his goodness in bringing to my hand so many comfortable and suitable scriptures in my distress.

But to return: We traveled on till night, and in the morning we must go over the river to Philip’s crew. When I was in the canoe, I could not but be amazed at the numerous crew of Pagans that were on the bank on the other side. When I came ashore, they gathered all about me, I sitting alone in the midst: I observed they asked one another questions, and laughed, and rejoiced over their gains and victories. Then my heart began to fail, and I fell a weeping; which was the first time, to my remembrance, that I wept before them; although I had met with so much affliction, and my heart was many times ready to break, yet could I not shed one tear in their sight, but rather had been all this while in a maze, and like one astonished; but now I may say as Psal. cxxxvii. 1: “By the river of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” There one of them asked me why I wept? I could hardly tell what to say; yet I answered, they would kill me: No, said he, none will hurt you. Then came one of them, and gave me two spoonfuls of meal (to comfort me) and another gave me half a pint of peas, which was worth more than many bushels at another time. Then I went to see King Philip; he bade me come in and sit down, and asked me whether I would smoke it? (a usual compliment now a days, among the saints and sinners), but this no way suited me. For though I had formerly used tobacco, yet I had left it ever since I was first taken. It seems to be a bait the devil lays to make men lose their precious time. I remember with shame how formerly, when I had taken two or three pipes, I was presently ready for another; such a bewitching thing it is: but I thank God, He has now given me power over it; surely there are many who may be better employed than to sit sucking a stinking tobacco-pipe.

Now the Indians gathered their forces to go against Northampton. Over night one went about yelling and hooting to give notice of the design. Whereupon they went to boiling of ground-nuts, and parching corn (as many as had it) for their provision: and in the morning away they went. During my abode in this place, Philip spake to me to make a shirt for his boy, which I did; for which he gave me a shilling. I offered the money to my mistress, but she bid me keep it, and with it I bought a piece of horse-flesh. Afterward he asked me to make a cap for his boy, for which he invited me to dinner; I went, and he gave me a pancake, about as big as two fingers; it was made of parched wheat, beaten and fried in bear’s grease, but I thought I never tasted pleasanter meat in my life. There was a squaw who spake to me to make a shirt for her sannup; for which she gave me a piece of beef. Another asked me to knit a pair of stockings, for which she gave me a quart of peas. I boiled my peas and beef together, and invited my master and mistress to dinner; but the proud gossip, because I served them both in one dish, would eat nothing, except one bit that he gave her upon the point of his knife. Hearing that my son was come to this place, I went to see him, and found him lying flat on the ground; I asked him how he could sleep so? he answered me, that he was not asleep, but at prayer; and that he lay so, that they might not observe what he was doing. I pray God he may remember these things now he is returned in safety. At this place (the sun now getting higher) what with the beams and heat of the sun, and smoke of the wigwams, I thought I should have been blinded. I could scarce discern one wigwam from another. There was one Mary Thurston, of Medfield, who, seeing how it was with me, lent me a hat to wear; but as soon as I was gone, the squaw that owned that Mary Thurston came running after me, and got it away again. Here was a squaw who gave me a spoonful of meal; I put it in my pocket to keep it safe, yet notwithstanding somebody stole it, but put five indian corns in the room of it; which corns were the greatest provision I had in my travel for one day.

The Indians returning from Northampton brought with them some horses, and sheep, and other things which they had taken; I desired them that they would carry me to Albany upon one of those horses, and sell me for powder; for so they had sometimes discoursed. I was utterly helpless of getting home on foot, the way that I came. I could hardly bear to think of the many weary steps I had taken to this place….


They said, when we went out, that we must travel to Wachuset this day. But a bitter weary day I had of it, traveling now three days together, without resting any day between. At last, after many weary steps, I saw Wachuset hills, but many miles off. Then we came to a great swamp, through which we traveled up to our knees in mud and water, which was heavy going to one tired before. Being almost spent, I thought I should have sunk down at last, and never got out; but I may say as in Psalm xciv. 18. “When my foot slipped, thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.” Going along, having indeed my life, but little spirit, Philip (who was in the company) came up, and took me by the hand, and said “two weeks more and you shall be mistress again.” I asked him if he spoke true? he said yes, and quickly you shall come to your master again, who had been gone from us three weeks. After many weary steps we came to Wachuset, where he was, and glad was I to see him. He asked me when I washed me? I told him not this month; then he fetched me some water himself, and bid me wash, and gave me a glass to see how I looked, and bid his squaw to give me something to eat. So she gave me a mess of beans and meat, and a little ground-nut cake. I was wonderfully revived with this favor showed me. Psalm cvi. 46: “He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them away captive.”

My master had three squaws, living sometimes with one and sometimes with another. Onux, this old squaw at whose wigwam I was, and with whom my master had been these three weeks: Another was Wettimore, with whom I had lived and served all this while. A severe and proud dame she was; bestowing every day in dressing herself near as much time as any of the gentry of the land: powdering her hair and painting her face, going with her necklaces, with jewels in her ears, and bracelets upon her hands. When she had dressed herself, her work was to make girdles of wampum and beads. The third squaw was a younger one, by whom he had two papooses. By that time I was refreshed by the old squaw, Wettimore’s maid came to call me home, at which I fell a weeping. Then the old squaw told me to encourage me, that when I wanted victuals, I should come to her, and that I should lie in her wigwam. Then I went with the maid, and quickly I came back and lodged there. The squaw laid a mat under me, and a good rug over me; the first time that I had any such kindness showed me. I understood that Wettimore thought that, if she should let me go and serve with the old squaw, she should be in danger to lose (not only my service) but the redemption pay also. And I was not a little glad to hear this; being by it raised in my hopes that, in God’s due time, there would be an end of this sorrowful hour. Then came an Indian and asked me to knit him three pair of stockings, for which I had a hat and a silk handkerchief. Then another asked me to make her a shift, for which she gave me an apron.

Then came Tom and Peter with the second letter from the council, about the captives. Though they were Indians, I got them by the hand, and burst out into tears; my heart was so full that I could not speak to them; but recovering myself I asked them how my husband did? and all my friends and acquaintances? They said they were well, but very melancholy. They brought me two biscuits and a pound of tobacco; the tobacco I soon gave away. When it was all gone one asked me to give him a pipe of tobacco, I told him it was all gone; then he began to rant and threaten; I told him when my husband came I would give him some. Hang him, rogue, says he, I will knock out his brains, if he comes here. And then again at the same breath they would say that if there should come an hundred without guns they would do them no hurt. So unstable and like madmen they were. So that fearing the worst, I durst not send to my husband, though there were some thoughts of his coming to redeem and fetch me, not knowing what might follow; for there was little more trust to them than to the master they served. When the letter was come, the Saggamores met to consult about the captives, and called me to them, to enquire how much my husband would give to redeem me. When I came I sat down among them, as I was wont to do, as their manner is. Then they bid me stand up, and said they were the general court. They bid me speak what I thought he would give. Now knowing that all we had was destroyed by the Indians, I was in a great strait I thought if I should speak of but a little, it would be slighted and hinder the matter; if of a great sum, I knew not where it would be procured; yet at a venture I said twenty pounds, yet desired them to take less; but they would not hear of that, but sent the message to Boston that for twenty pounds I should be redeemed. It was a praying Indian that wrote their letters for them. There was another praying Indian, who told me that he had a brother, that would not eat horse, his conscience was so tender and scrupulous, though as large as hell for the destruction of poor Christians, then, he said, he read that scripture to him, II. Kings vi. 25: “There was a famine in Samaria, and behold they besieged it, until an ass’s head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove’s dung for five pieces of silver.” He expounded this place to his brother, and shewed him that it was lawful to eat that in a famine, which it is not at another time. And now, says he, he will eat horse with any Indian of them all. There was another praying Indian who, when he had done all the mischief that he could, betrayed his own father into the English’s hands, thereby to purchase his own life. Another praying Indian was at Sudbury fight, though, as he deserved, he was afterwards hanged for it. There was another praying Indian, so wicked and cruel as to wear a string about his neck, strung with Christian fingers. Another praying Indian, when they went to Sudbury fight, went with them, and his squaw also with him, with her papoose at her back….


But to return again to my going home; where we may see a remarkable change of providence: At first they were all against it, except my husband would come for me; but afterward they assented to it, and seemed to rejoice in it. Some asking me to send them some bread, others some tobacco, others shaking me by the hand, offering me a hood and scarf to ride in; not one moving hand or tongue against it. Thus hath the Lord answered my poor desires, and the many earnest requests of others put up unto God for me. In my travels an Indian came to me and told me, if I were willing, he and his squaw would run away, and go home along with me. I told them no, I was not willing to run away, but desired to wait God’s time that I might go home quietly, and without fear. And now God hath granted me my desire. Oh, the wonderful power of God that I have seen, and the experiences that I have had! I have been in the midst of those roaring lions and savage bears, that feared neither God, nor man, nor the devil, by night and day, alone and in company; sleeping all sorts together, and yet not one of them ever offered the least abuse of unchastity to me in word or action. Though some are ready to say I speak it for my own credit; but I speak it in the presence of God, and to his glory. God’s power is as great now as it was to save Daniel in the lion’s den, or the three children in the fiery furnace. Especially that I should come away in the midst of so many hundreds of enemies, and not a dog move his tongue. So I took my leave of them, and in coming along my heart melted into tears, more than all the while I was with them, and I was almost swallowed up with the thoughts that ever I should go home again. About the sun’s going down, Mr. Hoar, myself, and the two Indians, came to Lancaster, and a solemn sight it was to me. There had I lived many comfortable years among my relations and neighbors; and now not one Christian to be seen, or one house left standing. We went on to a farm house that was yet standing, where we lay all night; and a comfortable lodging we had, though nothing but straw to lie on. The Lord preserved us in safety that night, raised us up again in the morning, and carried us along, that before noon we came to Concord. Now was I full of joy and yet not without sorrow: joy, to see such a lovely sight, so many Christians together, and some of them my neighbors. There I met with my brother, and brother-in-law, who asked me if I knew where his wife was. Poor heart! he had helped to bury her and knew it not; she, being shot down by the house, was partly burned, so that those who were at Boston at the desolation of the town, came back afterward and buried the dead, did not know her. Yet I was not without sorrow, to think how many were looking and longing, and my own children among the rest, to enjoy that deliverance that I had now received; and I did not know whether ever I should see them again. Being recruited with food and raiment, we went to Boston that day, where I met with my dear husband; but the thoughts of our dear children, one being dead, and the other we could not tell where, abated our comfort in each other. I was not before so much hemmed in by the merciless and cruel heathen, but now as much with pitiful, tender-hearted, and compassionate Christians. In that poor and beggarly condition, I was received in, I was kindly entertained in several houses. So much love I received from several (many of whom I knew not) that I am not capable to declare it. But the Lord knows them all by name; the Lord reward them seven-fold into their bosoms of his spirituals, for their temporals. The twenty pounds, the price of my redemption, was raised by some Boston gentlewomen, and Mr. Usher, whose bounty and charity I would not forget to make mention of…. We were now in the midst of love, yet not without much and frequent heaviness of heart for our poor children and other relations, who were still in affliction. The week following, after my coming in, the governor and council sent to the Indians again, and that not without success; for they brought in my sister and good wife Kettle. Their not knowing where our children were, was a sore trial to us still; and yet we were not without secret hopes of seeing them again. That which was dead lay heavier upon my spirits, than those which were alive among the heathen; thinking how it suffered with its wounds, and I was not able to relieve it, and how it was buried by the heathen in the wilderness from among all Christians. We were hurried up and down in our thoughts, sometimes we should hear a report that they were gone this way and sometimes that; and that they were come in this place or that; we kept inquiring and listening to hear concerning them, but no certain news as yet. About this time the council had ordered a day of public thanksgiving, though I had still cause of mourning; and being unsettled in our minds we thought we would ride eastward to see if we could hear anything concerning our children. As we were riding along between Ipswich and Rowley, we met with William Hubbard, who told us our son Joseph and my sister’s son were come into Major Waldren’s; I asked him how he knew it? He said the Major himself told him so. So along we went till we came to Newbury; and, their minister being absent, they desired my husband to preach the thanksgiving for them; but he was not willing to stay there that night, but he would go over to Salisbury to hear father, and come again in the morning, which he did, and preached there that day. At night when he had done one came and told him that his daughter was come into Providence. Here was mercy on both hands. Now we were between them, the one on the east, and the other on the west; our son being nearest, we went to him first, to Portsmouth, where we met with him and with the major also, who told us he had done what he could, but could not redeem him under seven pounds, which the good people thereabouts were pleased to pay. The Lord reward the major, and all the rest, though unknown to me, for their labor of love. My sister’s son was redeemed for four pounds, which the council gave order for the payment of. Having now received one of our children, we hastened toward the other. Going back through Newbury, my husband preached there on the Sabbath Day, for which they rewarded him manifold.

On Monday we came to Charlestown, where we heard that the governor of Rhode Island had sent over for our daughter, to take care of her, being now within his jurisdiction; which should not pass without our acknowledgments. But she being nearer Rehoboth than Rhode Island, Mr. Newman went over and took care of her, and brought her to his own house. And the goodness of God was admirable to us in our low estate, in that He raised up compassionate friends on every side, when we had nothing to recompense any for their love. The Indians were now gone that way, that it was apprehended dangerous to go to her; but the carts which carried provision to the English army, being guarded, brought her with them to Dorchester, where we received her safe; blessed be the Lord for it. Her coming in was after this manner: She was traveling one day with the Indians, with her basket on her back; the company of Indians were got before her and gone out of sight, all except one squaw. She followed the squaw till night, and then both of them lay down, having nothing over them but the heavens, nor under them but the earth. Thus she traveled three days together, having nothing to eat or drink but water and green whortleberries. At last they came into Providence, where she was kindly entertained by several of that town. The Indians often said that I should never have her under twenty pounds, but now the Lord hath brought her in upon free cost, and given her to me the second time. The Lord make us a blessing indeed to each other. Thus hath the Lord brought me and mine out of the horrible pit, and hath set us in the midst of tender-hearted and compassionate Christians. ’Tis the desire of my soul that we may walk worthy of the mercies received, and which we are receiving.