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This collection contains entire narratives of Indian captivity; that is to say, we have provided the reader the originals without the slightest abridgement; nor have we taken liberty with the language expressed by any of them, which would in any minute detail change the expression of a single passage; yet, in grammatical accuracy, we have altered some of the works insomuch as a collection such as this would allow.
We are certain that some will take offense at this work; they will likely doubt our intentions. Many of these Indian captivity narratives do not show the Natives in a favorable light, in fact many will be shocking to humanity; but the study of Native Americans in their uncivilized or natural state, offers an approach to knowledge of their natural history, without which it is hardly obtained. These narratives also provide a look at the sufferings that our American ancestors were of necessity required to submit in order to claim a land that wasn’t theirs by right.
We provide volumes upon volumes on the manners and customs of the Indians on this website, many of the writers of which would have us believe they have exhausted the subject, and consequently we need inquire no further; but whoever has read the accounts of intelligent explorers and travelers, do not require to be told that the most endless variety exists, and that the manners and customs of uncultivated nations are no more stationary, nor so much so, as are those of a civilized people. The current of time changes all things. But we have elsewhere observed that similar necessities, although in different nations, have produced similar customs; such as will stand through ages with very little, if any, variation. Neither is it strange that similar articulations should be found in languages having no other affinity, because imitations of natural sounds must everywhere be the same. Hence it follows that customs are as various as the face of nature itself.
This is truly an age of online blogging, and we have them in abundance upon everything and nothing, instead of facts which should be remembered. If a new blog or website upon Native American history appears, we shall doubtless be delighted with descriptions of elegant scenery and splendid sketches about general matters, but arise from its perusal about as ignorant of the events of the history we desire as before. Compositions of this description form no part of these pages.
We have on other occasions stood out boldly in favor of the oppressed Indian, and we know that a collection of Indian captivity narratives is calculated to exhibit their character in no very favorable light; but the reader should remember that, in the following narratives, it is not we who speak; yet we believe that, with very small allowances, these narratives are entirely true. The errors, if any, will be found only errors of judgment, which affect not their veracity. When the reader shall have perused the following narratives, I doubt not they will be convinced of the truth of what has here been delivered.
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A people whose whole lives are spent in war, and who live by a continual slaughter of all kinds of animals, must necessarily cultivate ferocity. From the nature of their circumstances they are obliged always to be in expectation of invasion; living in small communities, dispersed in small parties upon hunting expeditions, they are easily surprised by an enemy of equal or even a lesser force. Indians, consequently, often spoke of strange Indians whom they knew not, and they did not know whether such were to appear from one direction or another. When New England was first settled, the Indians about Massachusetts Bay were in a miserable fright from fear of the Tarratines; skulking from copse to copse by day, and sleeping in loathsome swamps by night, to avoid them. And all the New England Indians were in constant expectation of the Mohawks; and scarce a tribe existed in any part of the country who did not constantly expect to be attacked by some other. And such was the policy of those people that no calculation could be made upon their operations or pretensions, inasmuch as the honor of an action depended on the manner in which it was executed. Little credit was obtained by open combat, but he that could ensnare and smite an unsuspecting enemy was highly to be commended.
Depending on the work, the links below will take you to a page on our site, where you will find the text of a narrative, or the link will enable you to read a long and in depth manuscript on the captivity, where the manuscript is provided as is. Some of these captivities provide little in way of customs and manners, except to display examples of the clandestine warfare Native Americans used to accomplish their means. In almost every case, there was a tug of war going on between principle government powers, French, American, British, and Spanish, and these powers used the natural prowess of the Indians to assist them in causing warfare upon American and Canadian settlers. There were definitely thousands of captivities, likely tens of thousands, as the active period of these Indian captivity narratives covers 150 years. Unfortunately, few have ever been put under a pen by the original captive, and as such, we have little first-hand details on their captivity. These you will find here, are only those with which were written by the captive or narrated to another who could write for them; you shall find in a later collection, a database of known captives, by name, location, and dates, and a narrative about their captivity along with factual sources. But that is for another time.
Please bookmark this page or tag this post, as this collection will continue to grow as we become aware of additional first hand narratives.
Indian Captivity Narratives
The following Table contains the names of the captives, the time of their being taken, and the duration of their captivity, where the dates could be ascertained. Simply click on the name of the captive to advance to their particular narrative.
|Name of Captive||When taken||Where||Time Retained|
|John Ortiz||1528||Florida||Nine years|
|Father Francesco Giuseppe Bressani||11 Apr. 1644||Quebec, Canada||Four months.|
|Mary Rowlandson||10 Feb. 1676||Lancaster, Mass.||12 April, 1676|
|Quintin Stockwell||19 Sep. 1677||Deerfield, Mass.||About one year|
|Sarah Gerish||28 June, 1689||Dover, N. H.||Six months|
|Elizabeth Heard||28 June, 1689||Dover, N. H.||Remark'e escape|
|John Gyles||2 Aug. 1689||Pemmaquid, Me.||Six years|
|Robert Rogers||27 Mar. 1690||Salmon Falls, N. Hampshire||Tortur'd to death|
|Mehetable Goodwin||27 Mar. 1690||Sal. Falls, N. H.||Five years|
|Thomas Toogood||27 Mar. 1690||Sal. Falls, N. H.||Fortunate escape|
|Elizabeth Hanson||27 Jun. 1724||Dover, N.H.||One yr. & 6 days|
|Nehemiah How||11 Oct. 1745||Great Meadows, Mass.||Died in captivity|
|Mary Fowler||22 Ap. 1746||Hopkinton, N.H.||Six months|
|John Fitch||July, 1746||Ashby, Mass.||To close of war|
|Isabella M'Coy||21 Au. 1747||Epsom, N. H.||To close of war|
|Peter Williamson||2 Oct. 1754||Delaware Forks, Pa.||1 year/3 months|
|Frances Noble||About 1755||Swan Island, Me.||About 12 years|
|Col. James Smith||May, 1755||Bedford, Pa.||About six years|
|Jemima Howe||27 Jul. 1755||Hinsdale, N. H.||About five years|
|Mary Draper Inglis (Ingles)||30 Jul. 1755||Draper Meadows, Virginia (West Virginia)||Escape, 5 mo's.|
|Capt. Jonathan Carver||9 Aug. 1755||Ft. Wm. Henry||Made his escape|
|Marie le Roy and Barbara Leininger||16 Oct. 1755||Penn's Creek, Union County, PA||Four and 1/2 years|
|Robert Eastburn||27 Mar. 1756||Williams' Ft. Pa.||2 yrs. & 8 mo's.|
|A Mrs. Clendenin||Year 1763||Green Brier, Va.||Escaped|
|Alexander Henry||4 June, 1763||Michilimackinac||About one year|
|Maria and Christina Manheim||19 Oct. 1779||Near Johnston, N.Y.|
|Experience Bozarth||March, 1779||Dunkard's Creek, Kentucky||Great prowess|
|John Corbly||May, 1782||Muddy Crk. Ky||Escape|
|Frances Scott||29 Jun. 1785||Wash'n. Co., Va.||Escape|
|Capt. William Hubbell||23 Mar. 1791||Ohio river||Desp. encounter|
|Mercy Harbison||22 Mar 1792||Escape|
|Serg. L. Munson||17 Oct.1793||Near Fort Jefferson, Ohio||Escape, 8 mo's.|
|Ransom Clark||28 Dec. 1835||Florida [House.]||Escape|
|W. B. Thompson||23 Jul. 1836||Cape Florida Lt.||Escape|
Indian Captivity Narratives is a collection of first hand accounts of captivity by Native Americans. Our collection comes from different original sources, which are listed below:
- Frost, John, LL. D. Frost’s Pictorial History of Indian Wars and Captivities, From the Earliest Record of American History to the Present Time; Nearly 200 Engravings from Original Designs, by Distinguished Artists. New York: Wells Publishing Company. Vol. 2. 1873.
- Kephart, Horace. Captives Among the Indians, Number 3. Outing Publishing Company. 1915. Translated from the original: Father Bressani. Breve Relatione d’alcune Missioni nella Nuova Francia. Macerata. 1653.
- The Narrative of Marie le Roy and Barbara Leininger, for Three Years Captives among the Indians. The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 29, pp. 407-420.
- Foote, Rev. William Henry, DD. Sketches of Virginia, Historical and Biographical: Second Series. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania : J.B. Lippincott. 1856.