The Winter March - The Raid on Deerfield Mass


The War of The Spanish Succession, for the most part, fought in Europe was still a huge, global affair just shy of what we would call a true “World War”.  Queen Anne’s War was the North American of shoot of the greater conflict. Fought between the French and British with Native American tribes allied to both sides, Queen Anne's War was like many Colonial Era conflicts. By the mid 17th century British colonists in Massachusetts began settling the Connecticut River valley. This push westward put them into direct contact with the Pocumtoc nation, a native Algonquin-speaking tribe. By the 1660s the Pocumtoc were under heavy pressure from the nearby Mohawk nation and had been hit hard by European infectious diseases that they had no natural protection or immunity from. At the same time, settlers from the town of Dedham began acquiring land from many Pocumtoc people, setting up a full village in 1670. The village was on the edge of the Massachusetts colony which made its isolation almost complete. Help if it was needed would be a long while coming. The town was called Deerfield. 

Back in Europe, Queen Anne's War took the predictable form of most European conflict's. Set piece battles with large armies like at Blenheim were the norm. That was not the case on the frontiers of New England. Hit and run tactics, raids, and units of men in the tens not thousands were common. In the summer of 1703  French and Wabanaki, forces started the Northeast Coast Campaign. Raiding villages and settlements throughout Southern Maine, the French/Wabanaki offensive was a success. Fear soon raced through each community on the frontier, forcing them to ready themselves for the attack. In Deerfield, the villagers set about improving the low palisade. The hope was that the defenses, would be enough. Leading the French/Native forces was Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville, a veteran raider. Moving out from his base in Canada, Rouville went south with 250 men. Along the march, he added another 40 Pennacook warriors. Aware of the enemy movements, the Colonial government sent Deerfield 20 militiamen.  The town went on high alert, which meant everyone slept within its walls. On the 28th of February 1704, de Rouville set up camp a short distance from the village. The villagers went about their day, as Native American scouts stalked the town. The scouts noticed a weakness in the town wall, a snow drift. the late February snow had piled tight and high against the outer wall. It would allow the raiders to scale the towns only real defense, with ease. Right before sunrise a small group of attackers climbed over the wall and moved to open the North Gate. At that moment Deerfield held 291 sleeping, unaware souls.