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Rev. John Corbly’s Narrative – Indian Captivities

If, after perusing the annexed melancholy narrative, you deem it worthy a place in your publication, it is at your service. Such communications, founded on fact, have a tendency on one hand to make us feel for the persons afflicted, and on the other to impress our hearts with gratitude to the Sovereign Disposer of all events for that emancipation which the United States have experienced from the haughty claims of Britain a power, at that time, so lost to every human affection, that, rather than not subdue and make us slaves, they basely chose to encourage, patronize and reward, as their most faithful and beloved allies, the savages of the wilderness; who, without discrimination, barbarously massacred the industrious husband man, the supplicating female, the prattling child and tender infant, vainly sheltered within the encircling arms of maternal fondness. Such transactions, as they come to our knowledge well authenticated, ought to be recorded, that our posterity may not be ignorant of what their ancestors underwent at the trying period of our national exertions for American independence. The following account was, at my request, drawn up by the unfortunate sufferer. Respecting the author, suffice it to say, that he is an ordained minister of the Baptist faith and order, and held in high estimation by all our associated churches.

I am, sir, yours, &c.,

William Rogers


Muddy Creek, Washington County, July 8, 1785.

Dear Sir,

The following is a just and true account of the tragical scene of my family’s falling by the savages, which I related when at your house in Philadelphia, and you requested me to forward in writing.

On the second Sabbath in May, in the year 1782, being my appointment at one of my meeting-houses about a mile from my dwelling-house, I set out with my dear wife and five children, for public worship. Not suspecting any danger, I walked behind two hundred yards; with my Bible in my hand, meditating; as I was thus employed, all on a sudden I was greatly alarmed with the frightful shrieks of my dear family before me. I immediately ran with all the speed I could, vainly hunting a club as I ran, till I got within forty yards of them. My poor wife, seeing me, cried to me to make my escape; an Indian ran up to shoot me. I had to strip, and by so doing outran him. My dear wife had a sucking child in her arms; this little infant they killed and scalped. They then struck my wife at sundry times, but not getting her down, the Indian who had aimed to shoot me ran to her, shot her through the body, and scalped her. My little boy, an only son, about six years old, they sunk the hatchet into his brains, and thus dispatched him. A daughter, besides the infant, they also killed and scalped. My eldest daughter, who is yet alive, was hid in a tree about twenty yards from the place where the rest were killed, and saw the whole proceedings. She, seeing the Indians all go off, as she thought, got up and deliberately crept out from the hollow trunk; but one of them espying her, ran hastily up, knocked her down and scalped her; also her only surviving sister, on whose head they did not leave more than one inch round, either of flesh or skin, besides taking a piece out of her skull. She and the before-mentioned one are still miraculously preserved, though, as you must think, I have had, and still have, a great deal of trouble and expense with them, besides anxiety about them, insomuch that I am, as to worldly circumstances, almost ruined. I am yet in hopes of seeing them cured; they still, blessed be God, retain their senses, not-withstanding the painful operations they have already and must yet pass through. At the time I ran round to see what was become of my family, and found my dear and affectionate wife with five children all scalped in less than ten minutes from the first outset. No one, my dear brother, can conceive how I felt; this you may well suppose was killing to me. I instantly fainted away, and was borne off by a friend, who by this time had found us out. When I recovered, oh the anguish of my soul! I cried, would to God I had died for them! would to God I had died with them! O how dark and mysterious did this trying providence then appear to me! but

“Why should I grieve, when, grieving, I must bear?”

This, dear sir, is a faithful, though short narrative of that fatal catastrophe; and my life amidst it all, for what purpose Jehovah only knows, redeemed from surrounding death. Oh, may I spend it to the praise and glory of his grace, who worketh all things after the council of his own will. The government of the world and of the church is in his hands. May it be taught the important lesson of acquiescing in all his dispensations. I conclude with wishing you every blessing, and subscribe myself your affectionate, though afflicted friend and unworthy brother in the gospel ministry,

John Corbly

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