September
7th 2008
POWs in the eighteenth century

Posted under: American history, captivity, Dolls, O Canada, unhappy endings

Did you know that John McCain was a P.O.W. in Vietnam?  Me neither, until I heard it about 600 times at the Republican National Convention!  (Someone, please explain to me exactly why Wesley Clark was wrong and was an ineffective surrogate for the Obama campaign.)

Anyway, this lovely September Sunday morning must have been much like the dry and sunny late summer days in which French-allied Abenaki typically attacked English houses and villages in Northern New England and Western Massachusetts, and marched away with their prisoners of war.  The winter attack on Deerfield, Massachusetts in 1704 notwithstanding, the vast majority of captive raids, like the vast majority of other eighteenth-century military engagements, happened from July through mid-October.  Any earlier than that interfered with the agricultural calendar, and any later than that made for rough overland travel into (or out of) the northeastern backcountry.

10 Comments »

10 Responses to “POWs in the eighteenth century”

  1. Indyanna on 07 Sep 2008 at 3:16 pm #

    Was there a Caughnawaga Hilton or anything like that? In a lot of places, interfering with the agricultural calendar of the other side was a part of the idea of cross-cultural raiding warfare, and I guess that was an early example of the best defense being a good offense. That’s a great diorama above, Historiann, except that I’m creaking my neck trying to deep-read or thick-descript your bookshelf! Any chance for product-placement the next time you do one of these? :}

  2. Historiann on 07 Sep 2008 at 3:46 pm #

    Sure! Your book is in the library, just not on that exact shelf. (That’s mostly a colonial New England women’s history shelf, in case you can’t tell…)

    To be sure, raids by all sides included a lot of crop burning. But, because people were focused on dealing with “mud season” and getting their crops in the ground, no one had a lot of time or energy to raid in the spring or even early summer. (This is a hungry time of the year, too–any dried or smoked foods are long gone, and many Indian people especially were living off of fishing and clamming.)

  3. Indyanna on 07 Sep 2008 at 6:31 pm #

    Great. If I ever get the next one finished, there’s noplace I’d better like to see it break into light than behind a tableau of shiny lead colonists on this blog!

  4. Rad Readr on 07 Sep 2008 at 7:28 pm #

    Wesley Clark was ineffective because not long after he launched his attack, Obama issued a statement slapping him down. At some point Obama is going to have to attack Republicans and stop trying to look nice. He needs to support the surrogate attacks. When is he going to realize that he is up against shameless people who will do anything to win?

    Thanks for bringing up the 18th century. As McCain delivered his POW speech at the convention and flew the nationalist flag, I was thinking, this is a candidate from another century.

  5. Historiann on 07 Sep 2008 at 11:10 pm #

    Well, I’m coming to appreciate dedication to winning. I just wish it were my team that had the fire in the belly! You’re right that Obama needs that support, but he’s very dedicated to a strategy where he controls all. I hope he starts getting better results for it, because it’s not really working now. (See the new USA today/Gallup poll, which backs up and magnifies McCain’s lead as pegged by the Gallup daily tracker earlier today.)

    McCain is a candidate from another century–the twentieth century. But, if you want to talk stupid, Rad, then you’d have to admit that the two or three presidential campaigns (depending on whether or not you count 2000 as a 20th or 21st C campaign) in the twenty-first century have set new land records for stupid. 2000, 2004, and 2008 make the 1984 “where’s the beef?” campaign look positively Lincolnesque.

  6. Historiann on 07 Sep 2008 at 11:11 pm #

    And Indyanna–I could assemble a very substantial bookshelf of titles by including just those of my regular commenters–and who knows what other great and prolific scholars are out there lurking?

  7. DV on 07 Sep 2008 at 11:52 pm #

    If you haven’t seen it, here’s a bit of fodder for the counter offensive – a letter from Wasilla Democrat Anne Kilkenny. (She seems even-handed and someone has tried to reference her accounts.)

    Also, I wanted to recommend fivethirtyeight.com. I’ve found it a good site for compilation of polling data.

  8. Historiann on 07 Sep 2008 at 11:57 pm #

    Thanks, DV–a friend forwarded me the Anne Kilkenny viral e-mail just yesterday. I found it mostly fair. And, thanks for the tip on the polling data! I use the RealClearPolitics to keep track of everything–they also collect state polling data and highlight swing state polls.

  9. Professor Zero on 09 Sep 2008 at 2:23 am #

    In Peru, for odd family reasons (a representative was needed, and everyone else was stressed out from work, and they were putting me up, so I volunteered) I attended a class reunion of this famous military school, immortalized in Vargas Llosa’s novel _The City and the Dogs_.

    Part of the reunion involved visiting an 18th century fort where they kept political prisoners in oubliettes. Sentences were two years and people were packed in together. There was not enough space to lie down fully or stand up fully. They got bread and water twice a week and lime was thrown in every once in a while to deal with the corpses. Only 20% or so lived to be freed, but all bodies had to stay in there the entire two years, whether they were living bodies or not.

    Supposedly, when they got out the sun blinded them permanently because they were no longer used to it, their pupils were too dilated. I have read that this happened to those released from the Bastille as well. I do not understand how it works scientifically, but it is apparently like having eye damage from looking at an eclipse.

  10. Historiann on 09 Sep 2008 at 8:25 am #

    Prof. Zero–what a horror. That makes eighteenth-century Indian captivity look like summer camp by comparison. (And even being jailed as an English POW in Quebec or Montreal looks like Club Med by comparison, too.)