From a comment by Robert in Arabia over at Vox Populi:
In March of 1697, Hannah Duston’s tiny farm was attacked by a marauding band of Abenaki Indians (alternate sources say they were Mohawks)). They attacked Hannah’s husband Thomas while he was out working in the field, but he managed to run back to the farmhouse and warn his wife of the impending raid. Unfortunately, Hannah was unable to escape – she had just given birth to a child a couple days prior, and wasn’t in any condition to be moved. Hannah, her nursemaid, and her newborn stayed behind, and she encouraged her husband to get out of there and flee with their eight other children while they still could.
On this day she wasn’t in any position to fight off a swarming horde of warriors, and was quickly captured and forced out of her home. Her house was plundered and torched to the ground, and a subsequent raid on the village of Haverhill resulted in forty additional settlers being killed or captured by the Abenaki.
Along with the other captives, she was forced at gunpoint to walk north towards Canada. For several days they walked through ankle-deep snow and bitter, freezing cold, traveling nearly fifty miles from Haverhill to present-day Concord, New Hampshire. Anybody who couldn’t keep up was brained in the face with a hatchet, and when Hannah’s child wouldn’t stop crying, her captors gave the kid a post-partum abortion by smacking it against a tree. By the time the party left Concord and started traveling by canoe up the Merrimack River, all that remained of the captives were Hannah, her nursemaid, and some fourteen-year old kid they’d picked up along the way.
Hannah Duston was a tough New England broad, and she wasn’t going to let the Indians get away with it.
The next night, while all of the warrior braves were sleeping, Hannah sought her vengeance. She somehow broke free from her restraints and slowly tiptoed her way across the campsite. Using extreme caution, she held her breath, quietly reached into the pack of one of the warriors, closed her fingers around the wooden handle of a razor-sharp tomahawk, and silently pulled it out into the night air.
Before anybody knew what was going on, Hannah Duston was in the midst of their campfire whirling and slashing at everything she could reach. In the span of just a few seconds, she had killed ten indians with a tomahawk and sent two other warriors sprinting off into the woods screaming their heads off.
This angry Puritan mother took out an entire raiding party by herself without even blinking.
The two men who ran off were sure to be returning in the relatively near future. It made sense for the Puritans to not be sitting around a giant pile of corpses when they returned.
Hannah assembled her friends, grabbed a rifle and some food from the campsite, stole a canoe and headed back towards Haverhill.
She also went back and scalped the dead Indians before heading out.
In the canoe, the small group of fugitives paddled desperately trying to get down river before they were caught, recaptured, and harshly executed.
After a couple days of this nocturnal adventuring, they reached the New Hampshire town of Bradley Cove, where they convinced a local farmer to provide them with food and shelter for the night. From there, they headed out for home, walking the remaining 30+ miles to Haverhill.
Hannah Duston really didn’t take kindly to being captured, force-marched, and having her kid brutally murdered right in front of her.
To commemorate the adventures of this frontierswoman, in 1879 an appropriately-grim-looking statue of Mrs. Duston was erected in downtown Haverhill.
She is believed to be the first American woman to have a public monument built in her honor.
Cook, Bernard. Women and War. ABC-CLIO, 2006.
James, Edward T., et al. Notable American Women. Harvard Univ. Press, 1971.
The Story of Hannah Dustin
Amen. Neanderthal women can actually fight. The fire is there, and that makes ’em dangerous, regardless of the lower muscle mass.
When I followed the link to her statue, I saw exactly what I expected: recessed eye sockets, strong jaw, and uber square forehead. Had they known how to read faces they woulda killed her like any able-bodied man. She’s a dead ringer for the Persian sharpshootettes. Thal pride!
You really have to know what you’re doing to kill 10 sleeping men outright before they start waking up. She clearly had a working knowledge of human anatomy, if not before the trip then certainly learned on the way.