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Massacre on the Merrim...
Jay Atkinson
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Massacre on the Merrimack: Hannah Duston's Captivity and Revenge in Colonial America

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  276 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Now in paperback! -Awarded honors in nonfiction by the Massachusetts Book Award. -A riveting true story of murder, captivity, revenge, and escape Told with narrative skill and exquisite historical detail Massacre on the Merrimack examines a dark period in America's past and the bloody deeds of Hannah Duston, who escaped her Native American captors and returned to her settl ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 1st 2017 by Lyons Press (first published September 1st 2015)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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Start your review of Massacre on the Merrimack: Hannah Duston's Captivity and Revenge in Colonial America
"[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
Mar 18, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 25, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 Johansson
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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. ...more
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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! ...more
Dec 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As an undergrad, I took a class in captivity narratives. That was when I was first introduced to the story of Hannah Duston. Years later, I learned that I am her direct descendant. Hannah's story is complicated and took place in a very complicated time in early American history (before America was even America). On one side you have settlers from England who are searching for a place to root families and they feel that they were divinely inspired to claim the land; on the other are the native Am ...more
Nov 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-challenge
Should be mandatory school reading!
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Besides the detailed account of Hannah Duston and family, there is an excellent history of area Native Americans, the French, the history of Haverhill, Mass., and tales of other captives. The two things missing are (1.) maps - the book could really use a historical map and a present day map of the areas mentioned, and (2.) a picture of the statue of Hannah Duston. I did really like the cover photo so we get an idea of the river in March. The footnotes are extensive, but also very interesting.
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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! ...more
Dave Scrip
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Allison Horrocks
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.
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reads like an outdoor adventure tale for a dude's magazine. Not a trace of a primary source anywhere. And it sure sounds like he takes some liberties , adding reimagined glances exchanged between people and low level narrative business like that. A compelling tale that did not need such fluffing. ...more
Nicolette Harding
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. ...more
Deb Stransky
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing story! These events took place near where I was born & lived until I was 10.
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't want to be too negative, but I think Mr. Atkinson had a potentially good story and the research to share it in in unique and exciting way and he missed the mark. It's true this is considered a non-fiction account, but even non-fiction can be written in a way that brings the reader in and helps them connect with the story. Obviously, Mr. Atkinson is great at research. This book contains a wealth of information on nearly everything going on in the colonies during this time period, and that ...more
Bob Walenski
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dennis Hogan
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished Massacre on the Merrimack: Hannah Duston’s Captivity and Revenge in Colonial America by Jay Atkinson, a very cool book for a history nerd (or anyone else for that matter). This work of non-fiction is about the abduction of Hannah Duston in 1697 from her home in Indian country Haverhill, Massachusetts by the Abenaki in league with the French in Quebec and her subsequent escape. I have a personal interest in the story as my 10th great grandfather was one of the early settlers of Pent ...more
Sherm S
If You ever thought of New England Early Colonial history as somewhere between moderately engaging to just plain dry, well get ready for deeply, detailed researched balanced with excellent narrative in these 2 outstanding gems of history. Both Jay Atkinson’s Massacre on the Merrimack and Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower are remarkable in their ability to offer true history over a timeframe for most of us is a huge gap of historical knowledge. King Phillip’s War ( ironically refers to a Native Ame ...more
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
John Brian Anderson
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, boston
Exceptional local history lesson. I live on the Merrimac 15 miles from where this tale starts. I did not know anything about this, never her about her, not a clue. Very glad I stumbled on this book at the CPL book fair this fall as it is a well-written tale that sneakily inserts a colonial history lesson that is sparsely covered(if at all) in high school history classes. Learned a lot more about early colonial life, the hardships of those that settled Massachusetts and the struggles between the ...more
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