Recently, the department of Special Collections acquired a very interesting document. The broadside titled Murder by the Indians of a Mother and Ten Children tells the captivity story of William Bond and his family in Louisiana in early 1809, published in Philadelphia in 1810. Captivity narratives are stories of people captured by enemies whom they generally consider “uncivilized.” In this story, as in most early American captivity narratives, the enemies are Native American tribes. To date, most historians disregard the narratives, being suspicious of the accounts. Captivity narratives sprang from an era of racial bias and misunderstanding. Although there was a significant amount of violence between early American colonists and Native peoples, it is hard to discern fact from fiction in the first person accounts of white settlers. However, some contemporary historians and anthropologists have found the narratives useful in analyzing how the colonists constructed the “other”, as well as what the narratives reveal about the settlers’ sense of themselves and their culture and the experience of crossing the line to another. Accounts of captivity narratives based in North America were published from the 18th through the 19th centuries.
Our new captivity narrative was written in the first person point of view by William Bond,
the unfortunate father who lost his wife and all ten of his children. The narrative is written as a letter from William to his brother accounting his horrible tale. The broadside tells how the “savages” attacked his home immediately killing his seven youngest children and burning down his home, looting it for goods and livestock. William, his wife, and three oldest children were then taken captive and forced to accompany the natives into the “uncultivated wilderness”. During the ordeal the natives brutally butchered Bond’s children and wife leaving William alone. After watching his family tortured, William decided to escape. Somehow he was able to escape the camp but was followed by two natives whom he then killed. The narrative concludes with William saying,
“Thus, my dear Brother, have I given you the details of a very bloody and melancholy transaction from the period of its occurrence I shall date my wretchedness I—from that period have I bidden adieu to all earthly enjoyment, that you may be never thus afflicted if the sincere prayer of your unhappy brother.”
William Bond’s account will join our growing collection of captivity narratives. Here at Special Collections we house several stories of early Americans who were forced into Native captivity. Included in our collections is Mary Rowlandson’ famous captivity narrative. Rowlandson’s story is one of the most studied and read captivity narratives. Written by Rowlandson, the narrative is one of the earliest captivity narratives written in 1676. Due to the narrative’s popularity it was published in multiple editions and distributed early on throughout the colonies.
Come by Special Collections, located on the fifth floor of McFarlin library, to see Bond’s broadside narrative and Rowlandson’s, among many others.