history · Reading

Colonial Historical Fiction: English Taken Captive

I love historical fiction and history, and of course I love to recommend books about some of my favorite topics including early American history. For those who don’t enjoy history, don’t worry I’ll eventually do the same on non-historical topics, but today it’s time to learn about English captives in early colonial America. Have I ever mentioned I love survival stories? Because I do!

During colonial America the tension often threatened to destroy the delicate peace between the English in New England and the Native Americans. Tensions continued to mount as Native Americans lost lands and died from disease brought over by the English not to mention the English attacks against natives. These tensions led to King Philip’s War in 1675, a war led by a Wampanoag sachem named Metacom, or Philip as named by the English. During the war 12 towns were destroyed including Lancaster. The raid on Lancaster led to the famous written account of Mary Rowlandson about the raid and her time spent in Native captivity.

Accounts like Mary’s give us insight into what happened during raids and to the captives taken. These captives saw friends and family killed and feared for their own lives. Those who did not die during captivity were either traded back to the English or released after the war ended with Metacom’s death. Mary was taken captive on February 10, 1675 along with her three children when Lancaster was attacked at sunrise. Despite the town’s preparation for the attack, Lancaster fell. Over a dozen colonists were killed and about two dozen taken captive. Mary’s six-year-old daughter, Sarah, was injured during the attack and died a week later. Mary stayed a captive until her release on May 2, 1676 for 20 pounds, a large sum for the day.

Mary wrote a record of her ordeal and it was published as A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson and became a bestseller. While Mary is so well known due to her account, she is not the only want to write down her experience. This book here shares the accounts from the raid of Deerfield Massachusetts in 1704. Accounts from both the captor and captive side are highlighted, making it the perfect read for those looking for experiences from both sides during the turmoil and tensions in early America.

Historical fiction accounts of captives are stories of survival and terror. Stories like Mary’s show the differences in the culture of the colonists versus the natives. Mary speaks about the Puritan fear of the wilderness, which she sees the Natives as being a part of, a difference that highlights the cultural divide and view of nature between the Puritans and Natives. Some English children taken captive were treated like they were the children of their captors, giving them a different experience than captives used like slaves or taken as wives. The variety of captors, captives, their experiences, and ages give writers a slew of possibilities to write about across young adult and adult fiction.

My first read about English captive history was in elementary school when I read Standing in the Light The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan, Delaware Valley, Pennsylvania, 1763. Ever since that book I haven’t been able to get enough of stories dealing with the experiences of captives, even if many of them are written from a modern perspective. For those looking for young adult historical fiction, I greatly recommend Standing in the Light. Even though I read it 10+ years ago, I haven’t forgotten it.

The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey LoganCatharine Carey Logan and her family have enjoyed a peaceful and prosperous life as the Quakers and Delaware Indians share a mutually trusting relationship. Recently, however, this friendship has been threatened by violence against the Indians. Then, Catharine and her brother are taken captive by the Lenape in retaliation. At first, Catharine is afraid of her captors. But when a handsome brave begins to teach her about the ways of the Lenape, she comes to see that all people share the same joys, hopes, and fears.


But wait, there’s more! Here’s a story about an Irish young adult taken captive.


A fiery frontier woman falls deeply in love with her Native American captor on an epic journey

The thirteenth child conceived of miserable Irish exiles, Katie O’Toole dreams of a different life. Little does she know that someone far away is dreaming of her.

In 1747, savages raid her family home, and seventeen-year-old Katie is taken captive. Syawa and Hector have been searching for her, guided by Syawa’s dreams. A young Holyman, Syawa believes Katie is the subject of his Vision: the Creature of Fire and Ice, destined to bring a great gift to his people. Despite her flaming hair and ice-blue eyes, Katie is certain he is mistaken, but faced with returning to her family, she agrees to join them. She soon discovers that in order to fulfill Syawa’s Vision, she must first become his Spirit Keeper, embarking on an epic journey that will change her life—and heart—forever.

Now for for an adult recommendation about Mary Rowlandson.

Flight of the Sparrow

She suspects that she has changed too much to ever fit easily into English society again. The wilderness has now become her home. She can interpret the cries of birds. She has seen vistas that have stolen away her breath. She has learned to live in a new, free way…. 

Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. Even before Mary Rowlandson was captured by Indians on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she begins to question the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom the natives have shown her.

Based on the compelling true narrative of Mary Rowlandson, Flight of the Sparrow is an evocative tale that transports the reader to a little-known time in early America and explores the real meanings of freedom, faith, and acceptance.




Bibliography – visit these resources to learn more.


https://www.gutenberg.org/files/851/851-h/851-h.htm – NARRATIVE OF THE CAPTIVITY AND RESTORATION OF MRS. MARY ROWLANDSON





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