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Massacre on the Merrimack: Hannah Duston's Captivity and Revenge in Colonial America

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  210 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Early on March 15, 1697, a band of Abenaki warriors in service to the French raided the English frontier village of Haverhill, Massachusetts. Striking swiftly, the Abenaki killed twenty-seven men, women, and children, and took thirteen captives, including thirty-nine-year-old Hannah Duston and her week-old daughter, Martha. A short distance from the village, one of the war ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by Lyon Press
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3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  210 ratings  ·  47 reviews

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Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
"[A] little before break of day when the whole crew was in a dead sleep…one of these women took up a resolution to imitate the action of Jael upon Sisera, and, being where she had not her own life secured by any law unto her, she thought she was not forbidden by any law to take away the life of the murderers by whom her child had been butchered. She heartened the nurse and the youth to assist her in this enterprise, and they all furnishing themselves with hatchets for the purpose, they struck su ...more
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-favorites
Reading this book, you get the sense of a piece of art being painted before you. Atkinson goes into the detail of colonial America and several precipitating events to present the history that surrounds the story - the bias of the time, the political gamesmanship for control, and the intense financial drivers that form the backdrop to the scene in the foreground. A woman forcibly taken, marched through the NH wilderness in the freezing cold, subjected to brutal conditions and acts, all spurned on ...more
Mar 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017-books-read
I picked this up because (a) it's local history and (b) I've really enjoyed Jay Atkinson's other books. This book, not so much. I will give him this, he was thorough. But here's what I didn't like:

1. The jumping around back and forth in time, in several tangential stories about Hannah Bradley and the history of the French, the English, and the native people of America.

2. Most of Hannah's account was taken from the one contemporaneous written account of the story, which was written by Cotton Math
David Johansson
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What a page-turner! The story of Hannah Duston’s captivity and revenge will mark you forever. Atkinson plunges you into the cold water of the Merrimack river, makes you feel like brushing the snow from your shoulders, and marches you alongside the Indians into a world of wilderness now forever lost. Lost that is — except on Atkinson’s pages. He writes English prose like a master, and his canvas is as colorful as a mural. Painting the big picture of colonial America, when the French and the Engli ...more
Oct 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shame on Atkinson for not calling this a work of historical fiction--emphasis on fiction. Atkinson delivers a retread of a story as told to Cotton Mather (of Salem witch trials fame), and retold by such literary lights as Whittier, Hawthorne, and Thoreau.

This story of a Puritan woman's capture by "savages" and escape after slaughtering and scalping an entire encampment of sleeping Indians, became a Victorian trope and parr of the justification for 19th century Manifest Destiny. Ultimately, Atki
David L. Scrip
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent story

Atkinson brilliantly researched and wrote an outstanding read of the ordeal of Hanna Duston. In 1697, in Colonial Massachusetts , she was captured by Abenaki Indians. She escaped with two others and got revenge by killing ten of her captors and taking their scalps. She returned to her home and what was left of her family. Atkinson does a great job in describing the stark and brutal dangers that they faced. Duston's revenge is debated to this day. An outstanding history that is
Nat Bond
Jul 03, 2016 rated it liked it
An exciting narrative of the trials of Hannah Duston of Haverhill. But the book has a remarkable typo (1863 for 1683) and one continuing error: Throughout the story Atkinson uses "musket' and "rifle" interchangeably. Although rifling was invented for large field weapons in the fifteenth century, It is highly unlikely that English colonists and Indians had access to them in the late 1600s. In fact most English soldiers carried muskets over a century later in the War of 1812.
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Hannah and Thomas Duston are my husband's 9th great-grandparents. I can't believe all that Hannah had to endure---I am in awe of her. When I saw that this book had been written, of course I had to buy it! I was not disappointed. The author apparently did a ton of research, including retracing Hannah's route. Thank you for writing this book!
Sep 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
Minus a star for referring to Native women as "Squaws" no matter the historical context and minus a star for narrating passages with information that could not be known such as what Hannah Duston and Hannah Bradley felt. I also found the jumping back and forth between the two Hannah's captivity narratives, Bradley's which happened two separate times one with Duston's and one separately, and through time disorienting and hard to follow, especially when he referred to the the Hannah's as Hannah or ...more
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it
In my naïveté and wishful thinking I pictured a Thanksgiving feast with congenial, respectful and cooperative relations between Native Americans and settlers. However, this story catagorically puts that "Disney-like" image to rest. In fact, life on the frontier and relations with and among Native American tribes and the settlers and the English and French was pretty much a free-for-all with back stabbing and side deals and greed at the heart of the unrest. What interested me the most in this boo ...more
Anne Edmunds
Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
True story: 1697, Haverhill, Mass. Abenakis raid Haverhill, Mass, take captives, including Hannah Dustin, who a week prior had given birth to her zillionth baby. The raiding group trudge the group northward, many die, are killed (inc Hannah's baby) etc. Eventually, Hannah and 2 others--one is the woman who had been caring for Hannah after the birth, another a teenage boy from another villag--are taken with an Abenaki family group of a dozen or so to Concord, NH. They overnight on an island in th ...more
Erin Brenner
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book about a local heroine. It's well researched but doesn't mindlessly reproduce the biases of the source material. Our views on Native Americans has changed greatly in the more than 300 years since Hannah was taken captive, and Atkinson tells the story with that in mind. He looks at both sides, showing the hardships and the cruelties of both the Native Americans and the Europeans. His notes are well worth reading alongside the main text, enriching the story further.

For al
Sep 13, 2016 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. Hannah Duston's story is fascinating and Atkinson does a good job of setting it up in a dramatic way, providing historical context, and vividly describing the documented events. I enjoyed flipping back to the end notes for additional detail as I read and learned a lot along the way.

I couldn't give the book a higher rating because I was bothered by the author's interpretations and assumptions about what Duston was thinking or feeling at any given
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I grew up only a few hundred yards from Salmon Brook, which feeds into the Merrimack River. When Hanna Duston escaped from her Indian captors, she stopped briefly at the home of an Englishman on her way back to Haverill. There's a stone commorating this about a mile from where I grew up, so I've always been interested in Hannah's story. Jay Atkinson does a great job explaining the background of the Indian wars, most of which were incited by wars between France and England. Thank you, Jay!
Dave Scrip
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Fantastic history. Well researched and written. Hanna Duston's taken into captivity by the Abenaki Indians in March of 1697 and her ultimate revenge is still debated today. Atkinson story tells of the harsh brutal reality she faced and her ultimate escape to return to what was left of her family. Highly recommended history.
Nicolette Harding
Jan 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Great historical read. Though not for the faint of heart. I've yet to read such graphic descriptions of war, murder and kidnapping by colonial time Indians. How Hannah Duston survived and continued on is an amazing story.
Deb Stransky
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Having grown up around the New England area I found this very interesting and I remember some incidents from history class. I also knew the areas, towns, etc that were mentioned in the book I felt Jay Atkinson was a superb writer.
Review to follow...
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Intriguing story! These events took place near where I was born & lived until I was 10.
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this to be a vivid, well-written , and well researched recreation of a violent and troublesome event in early American colonial history.
I met the author at a talk and reading that he gave at the Salem visitor center. I found him to be quite accessible and his manner easy-going. The passage he read inspired me to get and read the book.
As a kind of aside, (and not really a review of the book), I have to take exception to some of the criticisms leveled at the book here on Goodreads, which
Matthew Peck
An intricate, evocative recounting of a particularly jaw-dropping episode in 18th-century North America. In 1697 , Hannah Duston - of whom I happen to be a 9th great-grandson - was abducted from her Haverhill farmhouse by a band of Abenaki in the early morning hours. After undergoing a forced march north, near-starvation, and the slaughter of two of her small children, she fomented a successful plan to kill (and scalp) her captors in the middle of the night -men, women and children - and canoe b ...more
Bob Walenski
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. Hannah Duston's story is one I had never heard, despite the fact that it was one of the most often told stories in New England public education for many decades. Rich in Indian folklore, history and our New England heritage, Hannah was a symbol for the indomitable spirit of the American frontier of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Hannah's capture and escape shows clearly how stark and violent our history was. As New England was being settled, the Indians were manipulat
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: boston
Informative and incredibly readable - sometimes too much so, to be honest; the author will confidently state things that probably aren’t in the historical record and then a few paragraphs later remember that he’s writing nonfiction and hedge with “undoubtedly,” “likely,” etc. Additionally I am somewhat squeamish about a work of history written so recently which does not even try to present the Native American side of things. While I recognize that Atkinson is writing from the perspective of the ...more
Mandy Bechert
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
At times reads as academia but rich in history and very compelling. 1600 colonial New England and Canada were brutal places and the author doesn’t hold back. Of note, it is told from the colonist point of view. It would be interesting to get the Abenaki interpretation. Not sure this has ever been explored. Also of note, Cotton Mather has a rather dramatic interpretation of historical events. This must be weighed into the story telling as much of the account is based on his meeting with the Dusto ...more
Gates Ouimette
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The first (and only) time I ever heard of Hannah Duston was in the pages of Thoreau's book about his trip with his brother on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. This book fills in many of the blanks for me including the backstory of Puritan/Indian relations and conflicts. It backs up my opinion that there is plenty of blame to go around as to why the English settlers and the Native Americans just could not get along.
Allison Horrocks
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
I re-read the author’s introduction to this book three times to understand why he wrote it the way he did. Major portions of this book are written as if the author was there - this can be done very well with history. Yet the excessive use of “savage” and careless language surrounding the murder of both indigenous people and settlers made this a hard and unrewarding read.
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a cool book about a fascinating figure in one of the most riveting of the captivity narratives. Mixed with lots of description of landscape, as well as backstory and history of other figures like Hannah Bradley (who had a similar story to Hannah Duston) and Frontenac the cruel yet capable French leader in New France.
Niamh Dolan
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An awesome story of a woman who survived the trials and tribulations of an Indian attack on her home. And for me a well illustrated picture of the early days of Massachusetts and the places I’m familiar with.
Richard Leibowitz
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Well written about a little appreciated time in New England history, Provo Jay Atkinson!
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