The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.

I. Travellers and Explorers, 1583–1763

§ 11. Jonathan Dickinson

The natives of the woods of Maine and those of the everglades of Florida were equally skilful in devising methods of terrifying strangers who were thrown by chance or indiscretion amongst them. The account of God’s Protecting Providence In the Remarkable Deliverance of Robert Barrow, Faithfully Related by Jonathan Dickenson (1699), is in many respects the best of all the captivity tracts. Driven ashore by a storm on the Gulf coast of Florida, late in September, 1696, the survivors, among them Dickenson’s wife with their baby at her breast, six weeks later reached St. Augustine. For most of this interval, the wanderers were in hourly expectation of death. As is frequently the case, the record of these experiences is so undemonstrative that it is unconvincing, until the whole story is reread from the beginning. It was only after the more desperate dangers were over, and the prospect began to favour their escape, that Dickenson’s narrative became pathetic. When the Spanish outposts were reported to be only two marches away, the fugitives

  • had a great Loss; having a Quart of Berries whole, and as much pounded to mix with Water, to feed our Child with; the Fire being disturbed, the Cloth which we had our Food in was burn’d.
  • This was a loss which might easily have proved, to persons emaciated and weakened by suffering, the fatal last straw; but in spite of a driving storm and freezing weather, all but two of the party managed to drag their blood-caked bodies through the sand to the Spanish garrison. At St. Augustine the Commandant and the other residents divided their scanty supplies with the fugitives, and nursed them until they were fit to be sent on their way to the Carolinas. The aged Quaker, Robert Barrow, survived all these experiences just long enough to greet the Friends who were awaiting him at Philadelphia. There he died three days later, on 4 April, 1697,
  • having passed through great Exercises, in much Patience; and in all the times of our greatest Troubles, was ready to Counsel us to Patience, and to wait what the Lord our God would bring to pass: And he would often express, That it was his Belief, that our Lives be spared, and not be lost in that Wilderness, and amongst those People, who would have made a Prey of us.