NORTON, John (b.1716). The Redeemed Captive. Being a Narrative of the Taking and carrying into Captivity the Reverend Mr. John Norton, When Fort-Massachusetts Surrendered to a large Body of French and Indians, August 20th 1746. Boston: "Printed and Sold opposite the Prison," 1748.
8o in 4s (170 x 104 mm). (Pale dampstain in lower margins of C4-E1.) Modern red morocco, gilt-lettered on spine, by Riviere. Provenance: Frank T. Siebert (his sale Sotheby's New York, 21 May 1999, lot 431).
THE EXCEEDINGLY RARE FIRST EDITION, second issue, with "taking" instead of "taken" on the title. During Shirley's War of 1744-48 forts were constructed along the western frontier of Massachusetts at the present towns of Heath, Rowe and Williamstown. "In August 1746, when Ephraim Jr. was away from the fort possibly recruiting forces for a planned expedition on Canada, 950 French and Indians attacked the 22-soldier garrison. Fort Massachusetts, in Williamstown, low on supplies and infected with a 'bloody flux,' surrendered to the French commander, Rigaud de Vaudreuil, after a siege of a day and a half. The post was put to the torch, and the soldiers and their families were forcibly marched to Quebec" (see The Life of Ephraim Williams, Jr., curated by Sylvia Kennick Brown, Williams College, 2002). .
Rev. John Norton was chaplain of Fort Massachusetts at the time of the attack. His account of the defense and surrender of the fort, the march to Canada, and the plight of the hostages during their captivity was published soon after his escape from Canada and his return to Massachusetts in 1748. In it he describes the extreme maltreatment of the prisoners, despite the terms of surrender implying reasonable handling. The party spent some time at Crown Point while en route to Canada, and there the "diet was very good," there being "plenty of Bourdeaux wine." The conditions in Canada severely worsened, and Norton records a rapid succession of deaths from disease. Norton's account is one of the classics of the genre, often reprinted, but extremely scarce in its original edition. This is the only copy recorded in American Book Prices Current in the last quarter century. Ayer 216 (imperfect, pp. 9-40 in facsimile); Church 965; Evans 6211; Sabin 55891; Vail 439 (listing this copy).