November 22, 2003
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.- In a new book, Captors and Captives: The 1704 French and Indian Raid on Deerfield ($29.95, 408 pp., University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 2003), Kevin Sweeney, professor of American studies and history at Amherst College, and Evan Haefeli, professor of history at Tufts University, reexamine the so-called "Deerfield Massacre" of 1704. Weaving social, political, literary, religious, and military history, Sweeney and Haefeli reveal connections between cultures and histories usually seen as separate, and a framework stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.
Drawing on previously untapped sources, Sweeney and Haefeli show how the assault of February 29, 1704, when a party of French and Indian raiders descended on the Massachusetts village of Deerfield, killed 50 residents and captured more than a hundred others, grew out of the aspirations of New England family farmers, the ambitions of Canadian colonists, the calculations of French officials, the fears of Abenaki warriors and the grief of Mohawk women as they all struggled to survive the ongoing confrontation of empires and cultures.
Haefeli and Sweeney tell the stories of a variety of individuals, from the Native, French, and English communities of the colonial Northeast: Frenchmen, Abenakis, Hurons, Kahnawake Mohawks, Pennacooks and Iroquois of the Mountain. Although the inhabitants put up more of a fight than earlier accounts of the "massacre" suggested, the attackers took 112 men, women and children on a harsh trek back to Canada. Along the way the authors examine how captives and captors negotiated cultural boundaries and responded to the claims of competing faiths and empire, against a backdrop of continuing warfare.
Sweeney, a resident of Greenfield, Mass., has taught at Amherst since 1993. He received a B.A. from Williams College and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history from Yale University.