Story of Her Captivity, Sufferings, and Restoration

Author: Mary Rowlandson  | Date: 1682

The Doleful Onslaught of the Indians

ON the 10th of February, 1675 [o.s.], came the Indians with great numbers upon Lancaster: their first coming was about sun- rising; hearing the noise of some guns we looked out; several houses were burning, and the smoke ascending to heaven. There were five persons taken in one house, the father and mother and a suckling child they knocked on the head, the other two they took and carried away alive. There were two others, who, being out of their garrison upon occasion, were set upon, one was knocked on the head, the, other escaped. Another there was who, running along, was shot and wounded, and fell down; he begged of them his life, promising them money (as they told me), but they would not hearken to him, but knocked him on the head, stripped him naked, and split open his bowels. Another seeing many of the Indians about his barn ventured and went out, but was quickly shot down. There were three others belonging to the same garrison who were killed; the Indians, getting up upon the roof of the barn, had advantage to shoot down upon them over their fortification. Thus these murtherous wretches went on burning and destroying all before them.

At length they came and beset our house, and quickly it was the dolefulest day that ever mine eyes saw. The house stood upon the edge of a hill; some of the Indians got behind the hill, others into the barn, ancl others behind anything that would shelter them; from all which places they shot against the house, so that the bullets seemed to fly like hail, and quickly they wounded one man among us, then another, then a third. About two hours (according to my observation in that amazing time) they had been about the house before they prevailed to fire it, (which they did with flax and hemp which they brought out of the barn, and there being no defence about the house, only two flankers at two opposite corners, and one of them not finished) they :fired it once, and one ventured out and quenched it, but they quickly fired it again, and that took. Now is the dreadful hour come that I have often heard of (in time of the war, as it was the case of others) but now mine eyes see it. Some in our house were fighting for their lives, others wallowing in blood, the house on fire over our heads, and the bloody heathen ready to knock us on the head if we stirred out. Now might we hear mothers and children crying out for themselves and one another, Lord, what shall we do! Then I took my children (and one of my sisters hers) to go forth and leave the house: but, as soon as we came to the door and appeared, the lndians shot so thick that the bullets rattled against the house as if one had taken a handful of stones and threw them, so that we were forced to give back. We had six stout dogs belonging to our garrison, but none of them would stir, though at another time if an Indian had come to the door, they were ready to fly upon him and tear him down. The Lord hereby would make us the more to acknowledge his hand, and to see that our help is always in him. But out we must go, the fire increasing, and coming along behind us roaring, and the Indians gaping before us with their guns, spears, and hatchets to devour us. No sooner were we out of the house, but my brother-in-law (being before wounded in defending the house, in or near the throat) fell down dead, whereat the Indians scornfully shouted and hallowed, and were presently upon him, stripping off his clothes. The bullets flying thick, one went through my side, and the same (as would seem) through the bowels and hand of my poor child in my arms. One of my elder sister’s children (named William) had then his leg broke, which the Indians perceiving they knocked him on the head. Thus were we butchered by those merciless heathens, standing amazed, with the blood running down to our heels. My eldest sister being yet in the house, and seeing those woful sights, the infidels hauling mothers one way, and children another, and some wallowing in their blood; and her eldest son telling her that her son William was dead, ancl myself was wounded, she said, ’and Lord, let me die with them;’ which was no sooner said, but she was struck with a bullet, and fell down dead over the threshold. I hope she is reaping the fruit of her good labors, being faithful to the service of God in her place....

Oh! the doleful sight that now was to behold at this bouse! Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he has made in the earth. Of thirty-seven persons who were in this one house, none escaped either present death, or a bitter captivity, save only one, who might say as in Job i. 15: ’And I only am escaped alone to tell the news.’ There were twelve killed, some shot, some stabbed with their spears, some knocked down with their hatchets. When we are in prosperity, Oh the little that we think of such dreadful sights, to see our dear friends and relations lie bleeding out their heart’s blood upon the ground. There was one who was chopped in the head with a hatchet, and stripped naked, and yet was crawling up and down. It was a solemn sight to see so many Christians lying in their blood, some bere and some there, like a company of sheep torn by wolves. All of them stripped naked by a company of hell-hounds, roaring, singing, ranting, and insulting, as if they would have torn our very hearts out; Yet the Lord, by his almighty power, preserved a number of us from death, for there were twenty-four of us taken alive and carried captive.

I had often before this said, that if the Indians should come, I should choose rather to be killed by them than taken alive, but when it came to the trial, my mind changed; their glittering weapons so daunted my spirit, that I chose rather to go along with those (as I may say) ravenous bears, than that moment to end my days. And that I may the better declare what happened to me during that grievous captivity, I shall par. ticularly speak of the several Removes we had up and down the wilderness.


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Chicago: Mary Rowlandson, "The Doleful Onslaught of the Indians," Story of Her Captivity, Sufferings, and Restoration Original Sources, accessed April 22, 2024,

MLA: Rowlandson, Mary. "The Doleful Onslaught of the Indians." Story of Her Captivity, Sufferings, and Restoration, Original Sources. 22 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: Rowlandson, M, 'The Doleful Onslaught of the Indians' in Story of Her Captivity, Sufferings, and Restoration. Original Sources, retrieved 22 April 2024, from