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 warriors murdered the squalling infant by dashing her head against a tree. After a forced march of nearly one hundred miles, Duston and two companions were transferred to a smaller band of Abenaki, who camped on a tiny island located at the junction of the Merrimack and Contoocook Rivers, several miles north of present day Concord, New Hampshire.
This was the height of King William’s War, both a war of terror and a religious contest, with English Protestantism vying for control of the New World with French Catholicism. After witnessing her infant’s murder, Duston resolved to get even. Two weeks into their captivity, Duston and her companions, a fifty-one-year-old woman and a twelve-year-old boy, moved among the sleeping Abenaki with tomahawks and knives, killing two men, two women, and six children. After returning to the bloody scene alone to scalp their victims, Duston and the others escaped down the Merrimack River in a stolen canoe. They braved treacherous waters and the constant threat of attack and recapture, returning to tell their story and collect a bounty for the scalps.
Was Hannah Duston the prototypical feminist avenger, or the harbinger of the Native American genocide? In this meticulously researched and riveting narrative, bestselling author Jay Atkinson sheds new light on the early struggle for North America.
Jay Atkinson, called “the bard of New England toughness” by Men’s Health magazine, is the author of seven books. Caveman Politics was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program selection and a finalist for the Discover Great New Writers Award; Ice Time was a Publishers Weekly Notable Book of the Year and a New England Bookseller’s Association bestseller; and Legends of Winter Hill spent seven weeks on the Boston Globe hardcover bestseller list. He has written for the New York Times, Boston Globe, Newsday, Portland Oregonian, Men’s Health, Boston Sunday Herald, and Boston Globe magazine, among other publications. Atkinson teaches writing at Boston University and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times. He grew up hearing Hannah Duston's story in his hometown of Methuen, Massachusetts, which was part of Haverhill until 1724.